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Brandon Law Group
Specializing In Family Law Litigation And Mediation

Getting Started

Whether you are considering ending your marriage, establishing a parental relationship or modifying existing court orders or have just been served with court papers, you may be asking, "What do I do first?" It is important to gather for your own benefit as much of the needed information as possible before you meet with your lawyer.

For Divorce

California requires each party to provide a full and complete disclosure of all financial information prior to entering into any settlement agreement or proceeding to trial before a judge. From a common sense perspective, this information allows everyone to know what they have before they begin to consider negotiating a final division of property or an arrangement for financial support. From a legal perspective, the court wants to make sure everyone has all the information they require to make fully informed and legally binding decisions.

Whenever possible, you should collect copies of the following documents and bring them to your lawyer:

  1. You will need your tax returns — both personal and business — for at least three years.
  2. Gather account statements for any bank, savings, money market, brokerage and credit union accounts (joint, individual or business) for the calendar year.
  3. If you keep your monthly expenses (whether business or personal) on any computerized program, run a general ledger, transaction ledger, profit and loss and income and expense report for at least the last calendar year to present.
  4. If you or your spouse has any retirement, pension, Keogh, 401(k), stock option, IRA or other deferred compensation accounts, collect statements for these as well.
  5. If you own real estate (either as a primary residence, a second home, rental or investment property), locate recorded copies of deeds, deeds of trust, tax statements and escrow settlement statements.
  6. If either you or your spouse is employed, bring copies of your payroll check stubs for at least the prior three months.

Other documents might be required, depending upon your particular matter. It is important to make copies of these materials and to give your spouse copies as well to quickly comply with California's disclosure requirements and to minimize attorney fees and other costs.

For Support Modification

Whenever possible, you should collect copies of the following documents and bring them to your lawyer:

  1. The judgment or latest order in your case

  2. Documents demonstrating a change in circumstances (such as a letter documenting a reduction in your work hours, a change in your salary or either party's failure to comply with court orders)
  3. Your earnings statements for at least three months

Important: If you have a financial issue before the court, you must bring to the hearing copies of your payroll check stubs for the last three pay periods and your tax returns from the past two years. Failure to bring these documents to the hearing may mean that your matter will not be heard.

For Custody Matters

If you are requesting a modification in custody or visitation, please provide your attorney with a copy of the judgment or the most recent order in your case.

Whenever custody or visitation is at issue, the court will require both parties to attend a free mediation prior to the scheduled hearing date. Mediation is between the two parents only; your attorney will not be present.

In Los Angeles County, parents involved in a custody matter are also required to attend the Our Children First (OCF) program, an online education course designed to help you and your co-parent continue to raise your children during the divorce process without subjecting the children to conflict. You can learn more about OCF classes at the L.A. Superior Court website.

Parenting classes are also available from

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