Your divorce attorney must prepare several documents to file for divorce. These documents fall under various categories, such as income and property, that are common to most states.
The Before Work
Before a divorce process begins, an attorney needs information that is best gathered by the spouses. Attorneys need documentation because “dry ink doesn’t lie.” An attorney can tell the divorce court, “My client paid for the mortgage from his own personal monies, not marital funds,” to keep total interest in the marital home, but the court wants documents that prove whether he is being truthful.
An attorney needs documents that tell the story of what had occurred in a couple’s financial life and other areas.
It is important to provide an attorney with a complete and well-organized file of personal documents to ensure the negotiation stage of the divorce goes as smoothly as possible.
Clients should be encouraged to keep physical copies of all such information, whether printed or a digital copy saved to some off-site service like Google Drive.
Documentation Needed The information and documents a divorce attorney needs to prepare official documents to include:
Documents Related to Income
- Both spouses’ paycheck stubs from all sources of employment over the last year. If self-employed, a client should provide income tax returns and any other tax forms related to self-reported income. This should include documentation either spouse held an interest in over the preceding three years.
- Documentation conserningng business expenses in the case in which either spouse is self-employed. This may include bank statements, canceled checks, check registers, payment receipts, profit-and-loss statements, and financial statements.
- Copies of any joint or individual tax returns, both state and federal, for the preceding three years.
- If either spouse works for cash – copies of check ledgers that detail any expenses paid during the marriage.
- Financial statements or statements of net worth prepared by you or your spouse used to secure bank loans or for any other purpose.
- Any other information that will establish both spouse’s net worth, joint net worth, and individual incomes.
Documents Related to Joint Financial Accounts
- Savings certificates and passbooks of accounts held individually or jointly.
- All bank statements for the preceding two years from any individual or a joint account.
- Statements from investment accounts held either jointly or separately.
Documents Related to Other Assets
- Statements regarding life insurance policies on your or your spouse’s life, or on your children, whether it is an individual policy or a policy through an employer. Documents that show loans or a cash balance against any policies should also be included.
- A detailed list of any unsecured debts including loans, credit cards, and medical bills in either spouse’s name.
- Copies of most recent statements for retirement funds, 401 (k) plans, pension funds, mutual funds, and/or IRAs.
- Registration and/or title or to any vehicles owned either spouse individually or jointly, including automobiles, boats, equipment, snowmobiles, ATVs, or other vehicles.
- Documents that demonstrate the outstanding any secured debt on vehicles, including monthly invoices, payment slip, or amortization schedules.
Documents Related to Real Estate
- Any documents from the mortgage company or bank
that show the legal description of any real estate owned jointly or separately.
- Current mortgage statements.
- All documents relating to the original purchase of the real estate.
- All documents pertaining to a refinance.
- Tax assessor’s statement (s) related to all real estate.
At the initial consultation, a divorce attorney should advise his client as to what legal paperwork will be needed. This may include:
- Both spouses and their children’s social security cards and passports
- Birth certificates of children
- Documents from any prior legal proceedings involving either spouse or children.
- Prenuptial agreements
- Separation agreements
Documentation for the Four Major Aspects of Divorce
All the above information is used to prepare documentation to present when addressing Spousal Support, Child Support, Custody and Visitation, and Division of Property.
A Closer Look at Spousal Support
Better known as alimony, spousal earnings are a key factor in a court’s ruling on alimony. Though they vary from state to state, there are some common factors a judge considers when it comes to ruling on alimony:
- The length of the marriage
- A spouse’s authentic financial need and the other spouse’s capability to pay
- The spouses’ ages, and their emotional and physical health
- The spouses’ educational levels and earning capacities
- The standard of living achieved during the marriage
- Parental responsibilities for the children
- Distribution of marital property between the spouses
- Income available to either spouse as a result of investments of assets.
- Cohabitation agreements
Every attorney knows their practice lives or dies by paperwork. The more an attorney prepares her clients for the work that is ahead of them so she can do her work effectively, the better for all concerned.