The most important step in the divorce process is hiring an experienced divorce attorney, but even the most seasoned professional is limited by the documents provided to them by their clients. Organizing a checklist and opening the lines of communication with a family attorney is a must during the process of filing for divorce.
Documents Related to Personal Background
Family law courts will need detailed information about the personal background of both spouses, so each person is expected to provide this information to their attorneys.
Remember that every piece of personal information will be expected, so try not to be alarmed about the detail that is required. Name, address, and phone numbers are just the start. Work history, date of birth, social security number, and driver’s license number are all required. Personal information related to any children of the divorcing couple will also be needed.
Most of the information listed above will need to be provided in the form of a copy of government-issued records or forms of identification.
Documents related to finances represent the largest category of divorce documentation. Divorce often requires each spouse to establish income and assets in order to determine how a couple’s finances can be fairly divided.
- Income can be proven through paychecks, income tax returns, and financial statements issued by banks. A sufficient number of paycheck statements should be provided to establish an average amount of weekly, monthly, and annual income. Joint tax returns for three years leading up to the filing date are typically needed.
- Whether real estate was purchased together or separately, any real estate held by either spouse must be documented during divorce. Information related to the purchase of any property, the financing used to make the real estate purchase, and tax information should be provided.
- Individual and joint bank account history for the two years prior to filing for divorce is needed.
- Include information about loans and credit card debts with outstanding balances in the name of either spouse. This also includes any medical bills that have been unpaid.
- Provide statements from retirement funds of any kind, including 401(k)s, IRAs, and pension funds. Self-employed retirement savings should also be documented if either spouse has been self-employed at any point.
- Divorce attorneys require documentation related to personal property including automobiles. Financing related to the purchase of a motor vehicle should also be included.
- Do not forget about paperwork for any life insurance policies that are held in the name of either spouse. Employer paid policies and individual policies are both relevant to the divorce process, and any policies that cover children of the divorcing couple are also important.
- Description of the Relationship
Many people who are going through a divorce believe that the court is only interested in the concrete information related to finances, property, and background, but legal professionals must also know about the relationship as described by each member of the divorcing couple.
Each spouse should write about their marriage from their personal point of view. Problems that have arisen in the past should be outlined, and a failure to resolve these issues can be mentioned to establish the reason for divorce.
When information about the relationship itself is being provided, the divorcing couple should establish whether there were any legally binding prenuptial agreements.
A divorce attorney will be able to guide their clients in understanding the need for documentation during the divorce process, but having advance knowledge prior to starting the process can help attorneys have the tools that they need to do their job. Be proactive about providing your divorce attorney with the documents listed above.