Do you expect a divorce in your future? No matter who may initiate the proceedings, now is the time to gather key financial documents that you will need. The sooner you begin putting together your binder of important documents, the less stress you will have — especially if your spouse limits access later. So, what financial paperwork should you locate and organize? Here are a few of the most important things to get and why.
1. Paycheck Stubs. Proof of income will be particularly important if anyone may need to ask for support from the other spouse. It's also vital to prove your current and expected earning power and how your income compares to your spouse's.
2. Income Tax Returns. Get a copy of all joint and individual tax returns from the last few years. These show income for both spouses and detail business or self-employment earnings (which are often hard to verify through other methods). You may also need to have these examined to confirm that what's reported is correct, especially if you signed a joint return your spouse oversaw.
3. Bank Statements. Details of expenses are important to determine how much money you (or your spouse) may need in support as well as how shared marital assets were used. Statements may also identify suspect expenses — like off-the-books transfers or lavish gifts — and demonstrate which accounts should be considered individual or marital property.
4. Statements of Net Worth. Did you or your spouse have to complete any paperwork showing your net worth? This may have occurred to obtain a bank loan or a business loan, for instance. Net worth statements are a great starting point to be sure you don't miss any assets that should be on the table and that division of assets is equitable.
5. Debt Statements. Don't overlook the need to locate and deal with all debts you may be responsible for. Asset division during divorce includes dividing debts. Failure to locate all applicable marital debts could leave you responsible for something your spouse has done.
6. Insurance Polices. Life insurance may count toward marital assets, so research any policies you both may have individually, as a family, through employers, or through banks and associations. Anything with a cash surrender value may be treated as a marital asset. Health insurance and other types of insurance could also be useful when determining your future income needs.
7. Retirement Accounts. No matter how young you are, don't overlook the value in retirement accounts. These can add up, but they often become lost in the shuffle over time. In particular, you'll need to know where all retirement money is held, how much is in each account, what type of tax-advantaged accounts exist, and the future value of any pensions.
Want help finding or gathering these financial documents? If so, start by consulting with a divorce attorney in your state today. For more information, contact a firm like Thompson Salinas Londergan, LLP.