Divorce requires paperwork. Unfortunately, gathering up the paperwork and information you need can be difficult, especially if you’re not the person who manages those documents and accounts.
Still, if you are thinking about divorce or have already decided on divorce, there are several items your lawyer and financial adviser will need. It’s best to track down the following:
- Two years of tax returns
- 12 months of bank and credit card statements
- List of all assets: real estate, retirement accounts, brokerage statements, etc.
- List of all debts: mortgage, car loans, student loans
- List of all personal property
You’ll also need:
- Birth certificates
- Immigration and naturalization documents, if applicable
- Social Security cards
- Death certificate of a prior, deceased spouse
- Court decrees and judgments in proceedings with a prior spouse
- Separation agreements, antenuptial (or “prenuptial’) and post-nuptial agreements and other agreements between you and your current spouse
Many people who attend the Second Saturday Divorce workshop wonder, “How can I gather all of this information?” Yes, it’s an overwhelming task, especially if you are not the partner in charge of the finances. Here is more information on why it’s important to get as much detail as you can.
And here is where to start:
Tax returns – If you and your spouse use an accountant, check with him or her first. He/she will have the information you need. If you file your own taxes, you can check the family computer and the filing cabinet in the home office. The returns may be printed and filed or may be saved on the computer as a pdf.
Bank and Credit Card Statements – If you and your spouse keep paper copies of things, they may be in the filing cabinet. Make copies of them. If you do not have paper documents, you can log in online and access these documents. If you do not have login information, you can create an account, as long as your name is also on the accounts. This will take time, but once you are set up with your own login information you can access past statements. If you and your spouse keep paper copies of things, they may be in the filing cabinet.
List of Assets/Debts/Property – You can start by making your own list, but you’ll need documents to help show what those assets are worth. These might also be in the filing cabinet, but these days it’s more common to find this information online. Again, if your name is on the accounts, you can create your own login name and password, and usually you can do that online.
If you are concerned your spouse is hiding assets, learn more about where to look.
Many people who have not been in charge of the couple’s finances turn to a certified divorce financial analyst and some even hire private investigators who handle such situations. If you are not sure about this, speak to your financial adviser or (CDFA) for guidance on your specific situation.