You know a split is coming — you just aren’t sure who is going to make the first move. Maybe your spouse will walk out in a week or two, or maybe you’ll find your way to a divorce attorney’s office first.
Either way, it’s time to get prepared. That means taking a good look at your financial documents and getting things in order. Many divorcing couples could avoid a lot of unpleasantness by taking stock of their household assets and financial concerns before they start making plans for the future — or demands in the divorce.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Get a filing system going
If you’re already pretty organized, this is no big deal. If you’re somewhat lax about paperwork or normally let your spouse handle it, this can be a challenge.
An organized filing system can help you find important papers quickly, spot something that may be missing and respond to requests from your attorney fairly quickly.
2. Gather up all the paperwork
You can’t get a clear picture of your financial situation without all of the information. You need to find and copy:
- Tax returns
- Payroll slips
- Business organization paperwork
- Bank statements
- Investment statements
- Retirement fund papers
- Real estate deeds
- Mortgage documents
- Private loan papers
- Credit card statements
- Insurance policies
- Wills and trusts
- Insurance valuation papers on art, furs, jewelry and other expensive assets
- Premarital agreements
When in doubt, it’s better to make a copy and have it than to need it later, so err on the side of caution.
3. Divide the property into marital and non-marital assets
This may not be something you can do alone. Nonmarital assets are generally not subject to division in a divorce, while marital assets are. If you’re uncertain, make notes about when the property was acquired and how so that you can discuss it later with your representative.
As difficult as it may be to start to focus on the practical aspects of your marital split right now, you’ll be glad later that you did.