Preparing for Divorce
When preparing for a divorce or separation, it is important to adequately prepare as early as possible in the process. You need an attorney who is understanding, but who will tell you the hard-cold reality to keep the process moving as smoothly as possible. Our Attorneys here at Dummit Fradin are experienced in helping you navigate the process, but if we work together, with your help, we can make the break-up go much smoother. You can help create efficiency and produce a better result by gathering necessary documents and considering the items below.
Even a “simple” divorce can result in complications if the proper legal procedure is not followed, and the assets and liabilities are not fairly divided. Although a good attorney can be a significant financial investment, having strong representation from the start can actually save you money, and make your life easier through this hard time.
Please use the list below to start preparing for this life transition.
1. Goals. Be honest with your attorney about your goals. You may wish to reconcile with your spouse. You may wish to restrict your spouse’s access to the children via supervised visitation. You may simple want free. You may want to fight. Your attorney can help you distinguish between realistic and unrealistic goals; and create a strategy to address your needs and concerns.
2. Personal Information. To speed up the process and make certain that you have the basics covered please create a checklist on confidential demographic basics including the following on a list or spreadsheet:
a. your full legal name,
b. date of birth, and
c. social security number;
d. your spouse’s full legal name,
e. date of birth, and
f. social security number;
g. full legal names and birth dates of your children and/or step-children;
h. date and location of marriage;
i. your address and your spouse’s address, if different;
j. date of separation, if applicable;
k. your education and occupation; and
l. your spouse’s education and occupation.
3. Privacy. Change all your passwords and access codes. If you are still living with your spouse, you may need to open a P.O. Box to collect mail from your attorney or other private sources. Talk with your attorney about opening your own bank account and/or credit card.
4. Awareness. Gather as much information as you can about any and all assets, debts, and other evidence that may be at issue during the litigation. This information is often easier to obtain when you are still living with your spouse and sharing accounts. Take note of your monthly household budget if your spouse typically handles the household financials.
5. Inventory. Make an inventory of all real and personal property. This list should include:
a. all Personal Property, such as vehicles, cash, jewelry, art, furniture, etc., and
b. Real Property, such as the marital home.
c. The inventory should include approximate value of the property, and
d. The source of funds you used to purchase the property (inheritance, purchased prior to marriage, purchased during the marriage).
e. If items are appraised, include this information with the inventory.
6. Debts. Make a list of all debts, whether individual or shared. This list should include mortgages, credit card balances, student loans, personal loans, business loans, etc.
a. Include the balance of the debt,
b. the date the debt was accrued, and
c. the interest rate.
7. Financial, tax, and legal information.
a. Obtain copies of all state and federal tax returns from the last five (5) years.
b. Obtain copies of all household bills.
c. Download online statements where possible. You may have to go to your bank in person to obtain statements for the last five (5) years.
d. Obtain copies of all paystubs for the last five (5) years (not needed if they are fully covered on your tax returns and there is no significant change).
e. Make a list of ay benefits provided by either spouse’s employer, such as retirement benefits, health insurance, stock options, bonus structures and the like.
f. Make copies of all birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other legal documents (including prenuptial or postnuptial agreements).
8. Professionals. Make a list of all the professionals your family has hired or worked with in the past five (5) years. The list should include tax professionals, accountants, financial planners, attorneys, marriage counselors, etc.
9. Insurance. Make copies of all insurance contracts and the last five (5) years of annual statements.
10. Business. Collect all documents related to the business owned by yourself, your spouse, or your family. What is the registered name of the business? If you own commercial real estate, provide all documentation related to the lease arrangement(s).
11. Credit and Social Security Benefits. Depending on the complexity of your case, your attorney may need a copy of your current credit report and your Social Security Benefit Estimate. If you can provide this information about your spouse as well, it may be helpful.
12. Revoke permissions. Talk to your attorney right away if your spouse is listed as your agent, your power of attorney, or a beneficiary. Your attorney may advise you to revoke certain permissions while keeping others in place. Your attorney may advise you to speak to your banks, creditors, and brokerage firms about protecting your interests during the separation or divorce process.
13. Military Benefits. Let your attorney know if you or your spouse has ever served in the military.
14. Child Custody. Last, but perhaps most importantly, talk with your attorney about developing a Parenting Plan while awaiting a more formal custody determination. Your attorney can walk you through the options to resolve your child custody and child support matters, ranging from amicable resolution to an emergency order.