As you head towards a divorce it’s important to be prepared. This involves both emotional preparation for the long road ahead and finding a talented family lawyer that suits your personality.
Another important thing to gather and prepare are all the relevant documents you will need. Having an incomplete list may leave your legal advisor in the dark when it comes to important matters such as property settlement or child support. Here is what I call a “starter list” of the minimum documents you should collect before talking to an attorney or filing yourself.
Prenuptial agreements: These are legal contracts you may have signed before the marriage. They can governs everything from property division, spousal support after the marriage or child custody matters.
Pension statements: You should collect these retirement documents for both yourself AND your spouse. Generally, spouses can claim a portion of their partners retirement income if funds were used during the marriage to contribute to these types of plans.
Proof of current income: This includes all W2s, 1099s, and other documents listed below such as bank statements and tax returns. Basically, if you list is on your taxes as “income” then collect the documents that support those numbers, including home businesses.
Proof of spouse’s current income: This includes W2s, 1099s, income from side businesses, repayments of debts (including interests), gifts, etc. Examine the last few years of tax returns to give you an idea of what types of income are reported and then find the documents that support those claims.
Certificates of deposit: A certificate of deposit is an instrument typically sold by a bank which represents a deposit of cash that cannot be withdrawn (without penalty) until a certain date. For this promise the bank pays a higher interest rate.
Stock portfolios and stock options: Documentation about stock portfolios usually take the form of monthly brokerage statement that come in the mail but be wary! Many brokerages send their statements via email exclusively so you will need to check there. Stock options are typically evidenced by a document “granting” the individual the options, but may also be contained on pay stubs, tax returns, or any documents you may have used to qualify for a mortgage or other loan. These are usually considered assets and will be listed anywhere you may have needed to prove your financial status or net worth.
Credit card statements: These may also be arriving via email so be sure to check all possible locations for the statements. If you think you may not be aware of some credit cards check email for correspondence or junk mail from the credit card provider.
Property tax statements: These come in the mail and will document the tax assessed (and often the market) value of the real estate you own. Be careful to watch out for property you may not be aware of. Also note any unpaid taxes or tax liens showing on the documents.
Bank statements: These m ay also be coming via email. Pay special attention to deposits and withdrawals because large deposits or withdrawals may indicate hidden bank accounts your spouse may not have told you about.
Loan documents: Loan documents always show proof of income and can also lead you to the exact documents you may need to verify proof of income.