Be prepared to provide your divorce attorney with documentation of your real estate holdings, substantial personal property, other assets, debts and financial information as well as those of your soon-to-be-ex, if possible. This includes assets and debts that are yours or theirs alone as well as all joint, marital property and debt.
Sometimes the way something is titled is not the way the court will see it as far as ownership. For example, separate property consists of assets owned by a spouse before marriage or received individually as an inheritance or gift. But, if you share separate property with the other spouse, comingle it with marital assets (such as by depositing it into an account containing marital funds) or use it for marital expenses, it could become marital property, which is everything not separately earned or obtained during the marriage.
Generally, the owner of separate property or debt keeps it in divorce. The court will equitably divide marital property, but not necessarily down the middle. Equitable division is based on fairness. The division could be part of a negotiated marital settlement agreement or determined by the judge in the divorce.
To prepare for these events, your lawyer will need documentation of everything, including:
- Identifying personal information and contact information
- Employment information, including recent pay stubs
- Recent tax returns
- Spouse’s employment information, including pay stubs if possible
- Information about children of the marriage and any children of either spouse outside the marriage
- Existing child support or alimony obligations of either spouse as well as those owed to either spouse
- Health and dental insurance information for everyone
- Life insurance on both party’s lives, including named beneficiaries
- Real estate owned by either alone or jointly as well as mortgages or liens on them
- Other debts owed singly or jointly, including credit cards, utilities, car loans, boat loans and all other types
- Lawsuits in which you, your spouse or both of you are plaintiffs or defendants
- Farm assets, including livestock
- Property tax information
- Vehicles, boats, motorcycles, airplanes and trailers as well as debts or liens on them
- Separate and joint bank or credit union accounts, CDs, bonds, mutual funds and stocks
- Retirement accounts, including pensions and 401Ks
- Luxury items like fine jewelry, firearm collections, antiques, artwork and more
- Money owed to you, your spouse or to you both jointly
- Family businesses
Your lawyer will let you know the details they need as well as any other information. Begin the process of gathering this documentation as early as possible because some may require professionals and companies to generate paperwork on your behalf.