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Documents are King: The Importance of Documents When Considering Divorce

September 26, 2011

Divorce can be overwhelming.  One of the things people may overlook is the importance of documents.  Verifying the nature and extent of income, assets and debts, reimbursements and credits, and other details of divorce requires documents.  Getting copies of the documents you will need now, will streamline the divorce process and may reduce the cost of divorce later.

What documents?

Key documents include:

  • Income tax returns for the last three to five years, particularly if income varies, or businesses or self-employment are involved.  Include all attachments, W-2s, and 1099s.
  • Paystubs for you and your spouse for at least three months, showing all deductions from pay.
  • Most recent statements for all financial accounts (checking and savings, certificates of deposit, money market and other investment accounts).
  • Most recent statements for all retirement plans for both of you, including pensions, 401(k) and similar retirement savings plans, stock savings plans, IRAs, and annuities.
  • All life insurance policies.
  • Most recent statements for all mortgages and equity lines.
  • Most recent statements for all credit cards and other outstanding debts, including auto loans.
  • Any documents stored in a safety deposit box.
  • Any documents relating to assets which you acquired prior to marriage or as a result of an inheritance or a gift of substantial value.
  • Any premarital/prenuptial agreement and any other written agreement between you and your spouse.

Make copies! 

Rather than taking the originals, make copies of the important documents, and leave the originals in place.  Nothing would be worse than your spouse opening the file cabinet only to find it empty!  Whether your divorce proceeds as a collaborative or mediated case, or as a full-blown litigation case, acting in good faith will always serve you well.

Don’t keep the copies in your car trunk.  If the documents disappear, all your efforts would be wasted.  Put your copies in a safe place until you obtain counsel.

Remember, Documents Are King!

–  Deborah Ewing, Wendy Jones, and Elaine Thompson are all experienced family law attorneys in the Los Angeles area, and are members  of A Better Divorce, a Collaborative Family Law Practice Group.

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