Checklist of Documents to Gather for Divorce 0

Making Sure You Have the Information You Need

If you are contemplating a divorce, you should do as much homework as possible before going to see an attorney.  It will save you time and money in the long run.  In order to complete certain filing requirements of the court with regard to your income, expenses, assets and debts, to facilitate settlement discussions and to assist your attorney in the efficient handling of your case, you should try to compile the following documents:

  • Complete personal (and corporate where appropriate) income tax returns for the past five years;
  • Documents showing your income for this year(and for last year if no tax returns have been filed), including but not limited to: W-2 forms, 1099 forms, interest and dividend income, and paycheck stubs covering the most recent three (3) months;
  • As to all real estate owned by you and/or your spouse:
    • The deed conveying title;
    • The promissory note;
    • The mortgage or deed of trust;
    • The payment coupon or invoice for your most recent mortgage payment;
    • A statement from the lender of the balance due on the mortgage;
    • Any appraisals conducted with regard to the property;
    • The most recent property tax bill;
  • As to any motor vehicles:
    • The title to the motor vehicle;
    • The promissory note if the motor vehicle is encumbered;
    • The payment coupon or invoice for your most recent payment;
    • The most recent property tax bill;
    • Your statement as to the mileage and condition of the vehicle;
  • As to any life insurance policies, a copy of the policy, or a copy of a policy summary or other document that will show:
    • The name and address of the insurance company;
    • The policy number;
    • The owner of the policy;
    • The beneficiary;
    • The amount of the death benefit;
    • The cash value, if any;
    • The amount of the premium;
  • As to any health insurance policies available to you, a copy of the plan summary, or other document which will show:
    • The name and address of the health insurance company;
    • The policy number, group number and/or ID number;
    • The beneficiaries of the policy;
    • A summary of the benefits, including co-pay and deductible amounts;
  • As to any financial accounts, including but not limited to checking, savings, certificates of deposit, IRA, 401k, or publicly or privately traded securities or stock accounts, documents which will show:
    • The name and address of the institution;
    • The account number;
    • The owner of the account;
    • The identity of any person authorized to sign checks or access the accounts;
    • The current balance of the account;
    • Copies of quarterly statements for the past year,
    • and monthly statements for the past six months;
  • As to any business in which you have an ownership interest, provide copies of:
    • Articles of Incorporation;
    • By-laws;
    • Stock certificates, including any restrictions on transfer;
    • Buy-sell agreements;
    • Year-end financial statements for prior calendar or fiscal year;
    • Most recent balance sheet and/or profit and loss statement;
    • Most recent tax returns;
  • As to debts, provide copies of:
    • Promissory notes;
    • The most recent payment coupon or invoice;
    • For credit cards, the most recent three months of credit card statements.

This may seem like overkill – and in many situations, it probably is – but if you use this as your starting point, you’re unlikely to forget to follow up on any particular piece of marital property.  If you are able to track a good portion of this information down (either at the bank or in your home office or computer files), you will save weeks or months of attorney work down the road.  You and your attorney will be in a better position to talk intelligently about what you can expect to settle the case for or receive after trial.

Some of this information may not be available to you at this time.  It can all be requested from your spouse and his or her attorney at a later date.  It is highly probable that they will be required to disclose the documents to you by the court.  So don’t worry too much if you can’t compile it all now.  Just do your best and you’ll be in a better starting position than you otherwise would have.

For more information, check out this book regarding financial security during a divorce andthis book about divorce and money.

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