Back to school season is a time when many people think about divorce. Whether you are simply looking for information or are ready to take the next steps in your life, chances are you are considering an initial meeting with a divorce lawyer to get information about your current situation. Many people want to know what type of information they need to have on hand to have a meaningful meeting with their lawyer. Understanding what type of information will be asked for and what will be necessary in a divorce case early on in the process can be helpful in a planning perspective. The following are documents that will almost always be necessary in a divorce situation.
Obtaining these documents during a contentious divorce can sometimes be difficult. Knowing what you may need ahead of time allows you to accumulate what you can in a less stressful environment, and one in which you are in control. It can also prevent documents from going missing. Sometimes a spouse can collect information around the house prior to announcing an intention to seek a divorce, or even consult with a lawyer. Taking pictures of documents can be helpful as well, such as checks from the other spouse in order to obtain account information.
Work and Family Income Divorce Documents
- Your federal, state, and local tax returns for the last three to five years gives your lawyer, and the court an indication of what your family’s income has been. If a spouse has income because of commissions or bonuses, having multiple years of earning history is important.
- Business tax returns if either you and/or your spouse own a business, preferably for the past five years. This includes any business entities in which there is only a partial interest, or other partners.
- Proof of income for both spouses (W-2, 1099, pay stub, bank statement with direct deposit, etc.)
- Stock options that you and/or your spouse have as a result of your employment.
- Employment contracts for both spouses
- Benefits statements for both spouses
Savings and Investment Divorce Documents
- Statements for all your accounts. This includes checking, savings, mutual funds, brokerage accounts, and cryptocurrency accounts.
- Certificates of deposits
- Your 401(k), 403(b) statements/retirement account statements
- Your spouse’s 401(k), 403(b) statements/retirement account statements
- Traditional and Roth IRA statements
- Pension statements
- Any other documents that list any deferred compensation that you or your spouse may be entitled to.
Property and Asset Divorce Documents
- Mortgage statement for all homes owned
- Property tax statements for all property owned
- Loan applications (includes car loans, refinances, home improvement loans, etc.) that you may have completed in the last several years, or a list of places that applications were made.
- Deeds to all real property, including vacation homes, and investment properties
- Car registrations for all vehicles
- Utility bills for all properties
- Personal property appraisals (for example, jewelry, equipment, artwork, etc.)
- Any riders for insurance policies
- List of major personal property (Include anything of significant value, such as jewelry, artwork, equipment, furnishings, high-end clothing, etc.)
- List of property owned by each spouse prior to marriage (It is important to distinguish property that is not marital property)
- Car insurance policies for all vehicles. Also, any information about the vehicle (model, milage, accessories) that will help establish a value.
- Home insurance for all properties
Lifestyle Divorce Documents
- Credit Card Statements
- Online account statements (Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, and any other payment systems, peer-to-peer payment services, digital wallets, etc.)
- List of all other major bills, such as medical bills, college tuition, and even your child’s dance classes, or other extracurricular activities can be helpful.
- Monthly budgets – This will become particularly important when asking a court to determine support for spouses and for child support.
Estate Planning Divorce Documents
- Health insurance policies for you and your spouse
- Life insurance policies for you and your spouse, and information about any cash surrender value
- Wills for both spouses
- Living trusts for both spouses
- Powers of attorney for both spouses
- Durable powers of attorney for both spouses
- Advance healthcare directives for both spouses
- Any additional insurance policies (for example disability insurance, long-term care insurance, etc.)
- Documentation of inheritance received by either spouse
- List of major gifts from family members
If you can obtain information and documents needed for divorce ahead of filing for a divorce, it may be easier for you to focus on the other aspects of your divorce process. It will also give your New Jersey family law attorney more information sooner, which can be helpful. However, do not despair if you are unsuccessful. The Court system has discovery tools which allow your attorney to obtain information which may be needed.