Getting a divorce is a big life decision, and it will impact many areas of your life and your family. Once you make this decision, you’ll have other things to handle, too, including the compilation of all your financial information for your divorce attorney.
Many people who are getting divorced simply don’t know where to begin when it comes to finances. While it can be tempting to put it off, the truth is that you will have the best experience possible in your case only if you are as prepared as you can be. How you prepare for the divorce–even at the very start, before you have hired a lawyer–will likely have a big impact on the divorce process and your experiences during it. When you do your “homework” early, you won’t find yourself having to run around and track down missing information or end up on the receiving end of an unpleasant “surprise” from your spouse.
It can help to look at your divorce like it is a mystery to be solved. The more clues you are able to give your divorce attorney at the start of the case, especially for your finances, the better they will be able to represent you and work toward the results you are hoping for. Of course, preparation is essential in just about all areas of your divorce, not just your finances, but it’s the financial side of things in which people often fall short.
When you organize your finances at the start, you’ll also be less stressed because you will know your attorney is in a good position to protect you. When you collect all the information your attorney needs, they will also have a better idea of what information your spouse should produce as well.
Fortunately, financial information usually falls into broad categories, making it easier for you to locate and gather what you need. As you start your search, here are three areas to focus your attention on.
Aim for All Your Assets
At a minimum, you should locate or create the following documents:
• The deeds or title to all real estate properties and interests
• The proof of ownership of all vehicles, including planes, boats, cars, and farm equipment
• An inventory of marital property, including receipts where available
• An inventory of non-marital property, with receipts where possible
• An inventory of all household items
Locate Your Liabilities
Your attorney will need to know all about your debts, so make sure you’re giving them the entire picture.
• Any debt records, including foreclosure information, liens, and bankruptcies
• Credit card account statements for separate and joint accounts
• Any home loans, including home equity lines of credit and mortgages
• All documentation of any loans, including auto and personal
• A list of household bills with copies
• Any lease agreements and their current statements
Find All Those Financial Statements
You should give any financial statements you have to your attorney, including those listed below.
• Joint and separate bank account statements
• Stock and bond statements
• Full copies of your tax returns for at least the last three years
• Any investment statements
• Statements from all pension, retirement, and employee benefit plans
• Your most recent pay stubs and business income
• Life insurance policy information, including policies from an employer
If you have anything else that impacts your finances, give it to your attorney. The same applies to items you’re not certain if you should include. Your attorney will know how to handle all the information you are giving them and how it may apply in your case. This is why it’s so important to give your attorney as many details as possible. The more they know, the better able they are to see the entire picture of your case and resolve the financial aspects of your divorce.