Divorce Checklist: Financial Information and Documents that Can Assist You During a Divorce
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Client Property Inventory
Nearly three million men and women go through the emotional and financial trauma of divorce each year. One of the most common fears during a divorce is financial survival.
One of the most significant mistakes a divorcing spouse can make is being in the dark about their finances. If one spouse in the marriage has historically been the financial decision maker and records keeper, he or she may have an advantage when it comes time to resolve the financial issues in a divorce. Sometimes a financially savvy spouse may try to move or hide assets without his or her partner’s knowledge. He or she may try to hide cash in a safety deposit box, under-report income, over-report expenses and/or hand off property to family and friends with the intention of getting it back once the divorce is finalized. If any of these activities sound possible to you, then it is critical for you to engage an experienced family law attorney, and utilize the services of a qualified forensic accountant to investigate the family financial trail and assist you with financial fraud detection. In fact, the use of an experienced family law attorney with an experienced forensic accountant in divorce proceedings is becoming essential.
For couples heading toward divorce it is critical whenever possible to take stock of your financial situation and start gathering and making copies of your documents and records before the process even begins.
Often times, the court will require each spouse to file a financial statement — a formal document detailing common financial factors included in a marriage: income, expenses, assets, and debts and liabilities, etc. This document provides the courts with an overview of a couple’s current financial situation, and is necessary for the final resolution. Often times such a form is also necessary to help determine alimony, child support and division of property.
Below is a financial checklist of items to consider that will be a great asset to you during the divorce process.
Financial Checklist for Divorce
- Account for the contents of any safe deposit boxes you may have.
- Obtain current income information since your last tax return, such as payroll stubs, investment properties, rental/lease agreements, dividends, interest, royalties, etc.
- Review and copies of any retirement plans and insurance policies.
- Include statements from loans, investments and checking and savings accounts.
- Look at credit card statements and income tax returns within the past five years.
- Review brokerage statements from all accounts of securities and/or commodities dealers or mutual funds.
- Do you have any business financial statements? These include a net worth statement (balance sheet or list of assets and liabilities) and an income statement (cash flow or income and expense statement). Having copies of your spouse’s business records could lead you to uncover hidden assets.
- Obtain any statements related to pensions, money purchase plans, profit-sharing or employee stock options.
- If you have any outstanding debts, you will need to produce documentation. Such items can include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, promissory notes and lawsuits pending or previously filed in court.
- Make a list of all personal property owned prior to your marriage as well as acquired during the marriage by gift and/or inheritance.
- Include appraisals of any assets you have owned within the past five years.
- Review employment records during the term of the marriage to show evidence of wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, raises, promotions, expense accounts, and other benefits or deductions.
While you are reviewing your financial documents and statements, it is also wise to assess your current credit and request a copy of your credit report. It is critical to protect your credit score during a divorce. Review any debts you have and monitor debts wherever possible that your spouse has access to, such as credit cards, bank loans, mortgages and home equity lines of credit. Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service to alert you if there is a change to your credit history. The health of your financial future and post-divorce finances are not to be taken lightly.
You will want to rely on a trusted team of legal and financial professionals to guide you through the lengthy and complex process of divorce. If your financial picture is complex (or simply unknown), an experienced family law attorney and forensic accountant can work together to ensure that all the legal and financial details are in place and nothing is overlooked.
The downloadable forms on the left of this page are designed to help you get organized. Please use them to begin your financial/property documenting efforts. Doing your homework now, and retaining an experienced family law attorney to assist you, will make your divorce process less stressful.
If I can be of assistance, please call me.
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