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Preparing for Divorce: What documents should I gather?

Deciding to pursue a divorce is one of the most difficult decisions that a person can make, and once the decision is made, preparing for the divorce can be challenging, too. Fortunately, there are a few steps that can be taken to mitigate the complexities of a divorce. The first step is to gather the proper paperwork and documents. Thankfully, while every divorce is unique, the paperwork needed is relatively universal.

The first set of paperwork that a person should obtain are all tax-related documents relevant to income. Individual income tax returns for the past three years are useful and somewhat easy to collect, but the divorcee will need to make sure they have the federal, state, and local income tax return sheets. If the person owns a business, then he or she should collect the business income tax return for the past five years. Along these lines, it will also help to have proof of income for both parties, whether those are tax returns or even paystubs.

Next, the person preparing for divorce should gather all financial statements. This can include bank statements, trusts, stock portfolios, certificate of deposits, and pension statements. These are important because during the settlement process, because each spouse will have an idea of what they will want if the divorce is to settle.

After obtaining value-proving documents showing assets like the tax documents and financial statements, it will be time to collect liability-proving documents. These documents can include utility bills, mortgage paperwork, property tax statements, credit card statements, and all other types of bills. It is important to include these documents because it can help determine what expenses the spouse will need to cover, and which party is more exposed to liability.

Additionally, a person preparing for divorce will want to collect any separation agreements, prenuptial agreements, or any documents relevant to the formation of the marriage. These documents are useful because a prenuptial agreement can have a strong impact on the division of marital assets. Along these lines, it can also be helpful to provide wills, estates, and power of attorney documents. On a final note, the person considering divorce should create lists of personal items and property. Once these documents are collected, they can be given to an experienced attorney who can help the divorcee prepare for settlement negotiations or court.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Checklist: Documents to Show Your Divorce Attorney," accessed on Oct. 22, 2017

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