Preparing Your Financial Documents for Divorce

Divorce is a lot of work! In order to get divorced, you and your spouse need to make a complete financial disclosure. Preparing for this can take months.

As soon as you realize you want to get divorced, you should start preparing your documentation. The first step is to make a list of every source of income, piece of real estate, motor vehicle, retirement asset, bank account, investment, and debt that is linked to either you or your spouse.

Next, collect supporting documentation for that item. For example, for a source of income, gather the most recent paystubs and most recent W-2s. For a piece of real estate, gather the deed, the mortgage statements, the most recent appraisal, and statements from any home equity loans. (You ultimately will need several years of statements, but think twice about making any requests that will alert your spouse that you are considering divorce. For now, do your best to gather documentation discreetly.)

Finally, once you’ve copied this documentation and organized your copies in a safe location, comb through the documentation. Are there any mysterious transfers? If so, can you figure out where the money went? Any forensic leads you can give your attorney at the initial consult will be helpful. Also, look for patterns. Does your spouse spend a lot of money on online poker? Again, these observations may be useful in your divorce proceeding.

Ultimately, your divorce attorney will give you final instructions on document preparation. The more financial documentation you provide to your divorce attorney upfront, the better prepared she will be and the less she will charge you during the discovery stage of your divorce.