I help people through the emotional, life-changing experience of a divorce. A new chapter awaits on the other side. But first, the parties have to get through the divorce process.
There is a lot of financial transparency in a divorce. The parties each have the legal right to financial disclosures from the other party. If the parties choose to go to court (a “contested divorce”), the judge will set discovery deadlines for financial disclosures at the first court appearance (the “Preliminary Conference”). Each party must typically provide three to five years of financial information to the other party. For example, this includes the following:
- Tax returns and W-2’s;
- Pay stubs;
- Bank statements;
- Business records;
- Loan statements;
- Credit card statements;
- Deposit slips, canceled checks and check registers;
- Mortgage applications;
- Retirement account statements;
- Trademark certificates or other types of intellectual property;
- Partnership agreements, limited liability operating agreements;
- Personal finance statements;
- Last Will and Testaments;
- Life insurance certificates;
- Employment contracts;
- Bankruptcy proceedings;
- Motor vehicle registrations; and
- Receipts for Living Expenses.
In some cases, photographs, emails, text messages, instant messenger history, and social media history, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be asked for by the other party. Nearly all written documentation that is relevant to the equitable distribution of marital property, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, grounds for the divorce action, valuation of businesses, or anything else ancillary to a divorce action is discoverable.
As you can probably guess, all of this takes lots of time to organize –for the divorce lawyer and his/her associates, paralegals, and administrative staff. And that means a lot of billable hours getting your financial documents organized so they can be produced to the other side.
If you’re financial life is a bit of a mess, I recommend working with a professional organizer to help you organize your financial documents by type and by year so they can be easily handed off to your divorce attorney. That person can help find what you do have, and order statements from the bank or other financial institution for missing documentation. Doing your own leg work will save you money in litigation expenses in your divorce action.