All legal situations are paperwork intensive. Whether you’re creating or contesting a will, buying or selling a home, creating or selling a business, or engaged in any of the other myriad legal issues involved in life, paperwork is an essential part of the experience.
When you start the process for divorce, you will need to provide your Bethesda divorce attorney with a variety of documents. Without these documents, your lawyer cannot properly evaluate your legal or financial situation or present them to the court with any degree of certainty about your situation.
The first time you meet with your attorney, it’s important to be well-prepared and bring the following documents with you. Your paperwork can be organized manually, either in individual folders or in an accordion-type file, or be put on a flash drive or other electronic memory device.
Documents Related to the Income of the Parties
Information regarding the income of the parties is of critical importance. The court needs to understand your financial situation in order to arrive at an equitable situation regarding alimony, child support, and property distribution. Documents showing income typically include income tax returns and pay stubs. They must show year-to-date earnings and deductions.
Business Expenses of You and Your Spouse
If either you or your spouse are self-employed, you should provide bank statements, check registers, financial statements, payment receipts, and profit and loss statements. You should also bring your individual or joint income federal and state tax returns for the past five years. Additionally, any financial statements or statements of net worth prepared by you, your spouse or either of your accountants for the purpose of obtaining bank loans or for any other purpose are important and should be disclosed to your attorney.
Finally, any other document that establishes your net worth, your spouse’s net worth, your income, and your spouse’s income is important to provide to your attorney.
Documents Related to Real Estate
If you jointly own real estate, there are a number of considerations to take into account. In most cases, real estate which was purchased during the marriage is marital property that will need to be divided during the divorce. As a major asset, real estate is often a contentious matter.
Note that if marital funds were used to pay the mortgage or if they were used for upkeep and maintenance of the property, real estate bought prior to a marriage could also be considered marital property.
It’s important to provide your lawyer with records that show a legal description of any real estate owned either separately or jointly, as well as current mortgage statements. You can obtain these from your mortgage company or bank. Other documents to provide to your lawyer include documents pertaining to the initial purchase of the real estate and any documents related to a refinance, if any, of the property. Tax assessments are also pertinent and should be provided to your attorney.
Documents Related to Joint Financial Accounts
If you, individually or jointly with your spouse, opened or contributed to any account during the marriage, this account is potentially marital property and must be assessed. These accounts include savings passbooks and savings certificates of individual or joint accounts. Any and all bank statements for the past three years from any account in your name or held jointly with your spouse, as well as statements from investment accounts you two hold jointly and separately, should be provided.
Documents Related to Life Insurance
Life insurance can also be considered marital property. The court may divide any cash value or order a beneficiary change in order to provide backup for child support. Individual life insurance policies on you, your spouse, and your children, whether held individually or through an employer, should be provided. Any documents that show cash balances or loans against the policies should also be disclosed.
Documents Related to Marital Debts
All debts, joint or individual, must be disclosed to your attorney. During your divorce proceedings, the court will determine which are marital debts and divide them as part of the divorce. You should prepare an itemized list of any outstanding debts including personal debts, credit cards, medical bills, and any other loans in your name or your spouse’s name. The list should include both secured and unsecured debts.
Documents Related to Pension Funds
Contributions made toward your or your spouse’s retirement account during the marriage are considered marital property, so your attorney will need to review all information regarding your retirement assets. The court will determine during the divorce proceedings how these assets are to be divided as part of the property settlement. Copies of recent statements for pension funds, retirement funds, 401(k) plans, mutual funds, or IRAs should be provided to your attorney.
Documents Related to Vehicles Owned by the Parties
Vehicles, trailers, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, and other types of equipment and vehicles are marital assets subject to court scrutiny and division. For your meeting with your attorney, bring the title, registration and other legal papers, whether these assets are owned by you or your spouse individually or jointly. All documents demonstrating the current outstanding secured debt, such as payment coupons, monthly invoices, or amortization schedules, should be provided to your attorney.
Other items to consider documenting for purposes of property distribution are jewelry, collectibles, intellectual property, children’s assets such as education savings accounts and bank accounts, household furnishings, social media accounts and other digital assets, memberships, and loyalty points/frequent flier miles.
Schedule a Free Consultation WIth a Bethesda Divorce Attorney Today
Divorce is a huge upheaval in your life. Given how overwhelming the situation can be, it’s important to be organized and ensure that your legal and financial documents are in order so that your attorney can prepare, strategize and organize your case. And, if you need to proceed to litigation, the more organized you are, the more supporting documentation you have to help your case. Contact us to learn more about financial issues related to divorce.