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Preparing For Divorce: What Should You Do, And How?

Divorce is complicated – legally, financially, and emotionally. Dividing up property a couple has acquired throughout their marriage (also known as marital property) can be one of the most contentious aspects of divorce. Luckily, divorce attorneys can help alleviate some of your legal and financial stresses by advocating for a division of property that works in your favor.

If you’ve decided to retain legal counsel, you can help save your divorce attorney time (and save yourself some money) by gathering important legal and financial documents together before the initial consultation. Doing this ahead of time gives your attorney an immediate and useful overview of the property and assets likely to be at issue in your case. Most importantly, it allows the two of you to work together to secure your short and long-term interests.

The following is a list of documents to show your divorce attorney, however keep in mind that everyone’s case is unique and may require additional documentation.

Documents to Show Your Divorce Attorney: A Checklist

____ Individual income tax returns for past three to five years (federal, state, and local)
____ Business income tax returns for past three to five years (federal, state, and local)
____ Proof of your current income
____ Proof of spouse’s current income
____ Prenuptial agreement
____ Separation agreement
____ Bank statements
____ Certificates of deposit
____ Pension statements
____ Retirement account statements
____ Trusts
____ Stock portfolios
____ Stock options
____ Mortgages
____ Property tax statements
____ Credit card statements
____ Loan documents
____ Utility bills
____ Other bills (e.g., school tuition, unreimbursed medical bills, music lessons for children, etc.)
____ Monthly budget worksheet
____ Completed financial statements
____ Employment contracts
____ Benefits statements
____ Life insurance policies
____ Health insurance policies
____ Homeowner’s insurance policies
____ Automobile insurance policies
____ Personal property appraisals
____ Real property appraisals
____ List of personal property, including home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, computers, home office equipment, clothing and furs, etc.
____ List of property owned by each spouse prior to marriage
____ List of property acquired by each spouse individually by gift or inheritance during the marriage
____ List of contents of safety deposit boxes
____ Wills
____ Living Wills
____ Powers of Attorney
____ Durable Powers of Attorney
____ Advance Health Care Directives

As you can see, the above list extensive — yet, it is not exhaustive. Every divorce is different since every couple enters and leaves a marriage under different circumstances and with different assets. Therefore, to ensure no property is overlooked, it is always a good idea to have an open and frank conversation with your attorney regarding all of the property and assets relevant to your case.