Checklist for working well with a lawyer

Use this checklist to help you keep a note of everything you need to have and do to make the most of your time with your lawyer.

See Working well with a lawyer for more detail about this.

Contact information

Make a note of your lawyer's:

  • name
  • address
  • phone number

Keep this information with you in case you need it in an emergency.

Gather the information you need

Make the best use of your time with your lawyer by putting together all the information you'll take to your meetings. (You can also download and print this list, if you'd rather work from a paper copy.)

Information about you, the other person, and any children

  • A piece of government-issued photo ID, like a driver's licence (Tell your lawyer if you don't want this information given to anyone else.)
  • Your phone numbers and other contact information
  • The other person's full name and their address, if you know it
  • Your citizenship or immigration documents, if you weren't born in Canada
  • Full names and birth dates of all your children.
  • A list of any health conditions you or your children have.
  • Details about where you and the other person work.

Information about your case

  • A short summary of your issue. If possible, type it so it's easy to read. Include all the important facts, such as:
    • why you're separating
    • important dates (for example, when you started living together or got married, and when you separated)
    • how many children you have and their ages
    • if you're working and how much you earn
    • if the other person is working and how much they earn
    • where you're living and if you can keep living there without financial support
    • your current arrangements for the children and money
  • All the documents you have that relate to your case, including:
    • any agreements you made with the other person before or after you separated
    • any court orders
    • any new court applications you’ve made or are preparing
  • Notes about what you want to have happen (for example, you want the other person to start paying child support).

Information about your and the other person's finances

  • Your tax returns or summaries for the past three years, if you're going to talk about support or property
  • Copies of the other person's tax returns for the past three years, if you have them
  • Your most recent pay stub (or proof of EI or disability payments)
  • Copies of the other person's pay stubs (or proof of EI or disability payments), if you have them
  • A list of everything that you and the other person own together or separately, including property, pension plans, RRSPs, or bank accounts (including any that are only in the other person's name), and property (such as the family home, investment property, and personal property)
  • Your property tax assessments, if you own your home
  • A list of debts that either or both of you have

Information about any family violence

  • Details about any physical or psychological abuse in your relationship (if you want a protection order)
  • The business cards of the police officers you've dealt with (if the police have been involved with your family)
  • A list that explains why you need, or have needed, an order for protection or for custody, guardianship, or parenting arrangements, for example

Manage your time and your information

Your time and your lawyer's time are valuable. Your work together will go more smoothly if you manage your time and your information well. Here are some ways to do that:

Manage your time

  • Be on time for every meeting with your lawyer and court appearance. If you have an emergency, let your lawyer's office or court clerk know as soon as possible that you’ll be late.
  • Write the dates and times of all your appointments and court appearances in your calendar.
  • Focus on your case when you meet.
  • Don't call your lawyer too often. Prepare for your calls and keep them as short and focused as possible.
  • Keep a note of your calls to your lawyer and what you talk about.
  • Answer all your lawyer's questions as soon as possible.
  • Do everything you told your lawyer you would do.

Manage your information

  • Make and keep copies of everything you give to your lawyer. Organize them and keep them safe in a large envelope, file folder, or binder.
  • Write out contact information for witnesses you’d like to use. Describe briefly what each witness can testify about.
  • Write out your questions before every meeting so you don't forget anything.
  • Bring paper and a pen so you can write down the answers to your questions.
  • Bring a friend or advocate with you if you can. They can remind you of questions you had and can take notes about what your lawyer says and what you agree to do at the meeting.
  • Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  • Tell your lawyer clearly what you decide at each stage of your case.
  • At each meeting, write down:
    • what decisions you made,
    • what tasks you each agreed to do,
    • when you each promised to do your tasks, and
    • how much time you spent with your lawyer.