If you are considering divorce, have started the process, or have been served with divorce papers, there are a number of documents that you should gather, sooner rather than later. Your attorney will want copies of these documents and the court will need them to properly decide your case. Although the specific records needed will vary from case to case, the following are basic categories of documents that you should collect as soon as you are able to do so:
· Income-Related Documents: At minimum, you should gather pay stubs from the last year for you and, if possible, your spouse, as well as complete tax returns for the past three years, including all W-2 and 1099 forms.
· Financial Account Documents: You should collect copies of statements for all bank or other financial accounts for the past three years, including cancelled checks, if possible. These documents are especially important if one or both of you has income that is not reflected on tax returns.
· Real Estate Records: If you own real estate, you should pull together all documents relating to the purchase of the property, including closing statements, as well as documentation of the source of any down-payment or earnest money. If the property has been refinanced, you will also need all of those documents. You should also get copies of tax records and mortgage statements for the past three years. If you put non-marital money into the house (such as a down payment from the sale of your pre-marital home), you will need to be able to trace the funds.
· Debts: You will want statements for any credit card or charge accounts or other debts, whether individual or joint, for the past three years, as well as any initial loan documents, if available.
· Life Insurance: Gather insurance binders or other documents reflecting any policies in place on your life, your spouse’s life, or the lives of your children, including information on present cash values (if applicable) and loans against the policies.
· Retirement assets: Collect monthly or quarterly statements for 401k plans, IRAs, pension plans, or other retirement assets for the past three years. You should also get copies of the plan documents from the plan administrator or your human resources department.
· Vehicles: You should get copies of the titles to automobiles or other vehicles, as well as monthly statements regarding any loans. Information regarding current value of the vehicles is also useful.
· Business Interests: If you own a business, you will need copies of all financial statements for at least three years, including balance sheets, profit/loss statements, general ledgers, bank statements, and tax returns. In many cases, businesses will need to be professionally valued and additional documents will be necessary.
· Non-Marital Assets: If you have significant assets that you acquired before the married, or which you inherited or received as a gift, you should attempt to gather any documentation that supports your claim.
The above is just a basic list, and it is very likely that additional documentation will be needed. This list, however, should give you a starting point for collecting the necessary information. For assistance with divorce or any family-law matter, call Kruse Family Law at 612.231.9865 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.