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Four Essential Items for Your Divorce Preparation Checklist

When you’re planning to divorce your partner, you should be well-prepared with the information and documents needed to prepare for your divorce action. Whether your case goes to court or not, a divorce can be lengthy, exhausting, and emotionally taxing. Gathering the appropriate information beforehand will help your divorce lawyer simplify the process and streamline a case resolution. In that sense, here are four essential items that should be on your checklist when you're preparing for divorce.

Divorce Preparation Checklist Item #1. Personal Information

Filing for divorce and navigating through either litigation or mediation requires preparation and paperwork, the extent of which will vary depending on the type of divorce you pursue, and the number of issues present in your case. Generally, you should ensure that you have essential personal information of both parties documented. This includes basic information such as your full name, social security number, contact information, contact details of your employer and proof of state residency. You should also ensure that you have documented your spouse’s contact details, as well as their employment information, amount of salary and length of employment and other relevant work benefits.

If you or your spouse were married prior to the current marriage, you should gather information about the prior divorces, child support and custody agreements with any previous partners. Additionally, you should provide your marriage certificate to prove that you were legally wed, and copies of your children’s birth certificates. If you had signed any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, you should have those documents ready to provide to your attorney as well.

Divorce Preparation Checklist Item #2. Child Custody, Visitation and Child Support Documents

You want to ensure that your children are well-cared for both during and after your divorce. In the United States, while mothers account for the biggest percentage (80.4%) of primary custodial parents, fathers increasingly have shared custody arrangements so it is important for both parents to focus on this issue. Your divorce/child custody and visitation lawyer will help you come up with a plan that will settle child custody and visitation arrangements for both parties. To get started, you'll need to have any previous documentation related to your children’s emotional and physical well-being available for your lawyers to review. Have there been documented instances of violence toward your children by your partner? Do your children have any mental, physical or educational issues which are important for your attorney to be advised of? Do you or your partner have children from a prior relationship and any associated child support obligations? What has each parent’s involvement been in the child(ren)’s life from birth to present? This information is critical to help give your attorneys the full picture from the start of the divorce proceeding. Child custody and child support are weighty matters that often expand the timeline of divorce cases, which is why you should prepare the necessary information beforehand. Based on the documentation you provide, your lawyer can draft a parenting plan that accommodates both your parenting needs and also safeguards the welfare of your children. Family lawyers will also help you come up with a financial plan for your children.

Divorce Preparation Checklist Item #3. Financial Documents

As family law attorneys will tell you, the bulk of information needed in most divorce cases lies in financial records. You should ensure that you have the following documents in order: individual tax returns and income verification documents (such as employer pay stubs and W-2s) for the three to five most recent tax years, real estate documents and personal property information documents. You should obtain your latest financial records such as bank statements, retirement account statements, employment contracts as well as business tax returns if you or your spouse operate or own a business.

Real estate documents that you should obtain include the deed reflecting the title to the property or properties, mortgage statements, recent property appraisals and tax assessments, settlement statement for the property purchase, documents on rental income if any, rental property tax schedules if any, and Form 2119 from the IRS (which reports the sale of your home). It helps your divorce attorney if you have the real estate documents that reflect the ownership and value of any real property owned by you and/or your spouse.

You should also document any valuable collections you may possess, such as a vintage postcard or coin collection, antique art, antique wine collection, cars and other personal property owned. If you or your spouse received an inheritance during the marriage or are expected to benefit from a family trust or estate division, you should also obtain the appropriate documents. It may seem like a lot to do but having as many financial documents in your possession as possible will likely work to your advantage.

Divorce Preparation Checklist Item #4. Credit Card and Debt Information

The last thing you want after your divorce concludes is having to pay for any personal debt your spouse may have incurred on credit cards or loans. You should document any joint or marital debt, including all credit card debt (and any joint credit cards even if such card has no associated balance) as well as any loans you’re aware of that you or your partner has incurred before or during your marriage (such as student loans, car loans or emergency/personal loans). Your divorce lawyer may be able to use such information and documentation to avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road and to ensure that nothing is missed that is relevant to your case.

You want to be prepared with as much personal and financial information as possible before you serve your partner with divorce papers. To help you finalize your divorce preparation checklist and ready everything you need to file for divorce, contact an experienced, local divorce lawyer in your area. At Hite Kaminsky Family Law, our team of family lawyers, divorce attorneys and child custody and child support lawyers are ready to assist you through your divorce proceedings – contact us today!