If Divorce Is on Your List of New Year’s Resolutions…

Posted December 15, 2009 in Your Family & The Law by

The holiday season can be stressful. Combine that with the other pressures of life, and it’s no surprise that many couples may include "file for divorce" on their list of New Year’s resolutions. The sad truth is, many divorce attorneys reportedly see a spike in divorce business in January.

If you’re contemplating a divorce, do your homework before telling your spouse that you’re leaving.

Research and hire an experienced divorce attorney. You want to feel comfortable and confident with your lawyer, because you’re putting a lot of trust in this person. Ask friends for personal recommendations, research divorce attorneys on Lawyers.com and talk to the potential attorneys before making a decision.

Collect essential paperwork. Your divorce lawyer should give you a list of documents to gather, but if you want to get a head start, start assembling the following:

  • Birth certificates
  • Immigration and naturalization documents
  • Social Security cards
  • Death certificate of prior deceased spouse
  • Court decrees and judgments in proceedings with prior spouse
  • Separation agreements, antenuptial or prenuptial agreements and other agreements between you and your current spouse
  • Federal, state and local income tax returns for the last three to five years
  • Payroll statements, pay stubs and overtime and bonus records
  • Pension or retirement plan, annuities, individual retirement account (IRA) documents
  • Insurance policies including life, health, automobile and homeowners insurance
  • Real estate deeds, contracts or leases
  • Mortgages, loans, credit card statements and other records showing debt
  • Bank checking and savings accounts, cancelled checks, checkbook journals and deposit slips
  • Household budgets or expense records
  • Expense or billing statements for food, rent, utilities, clothing, household goods, repairs, gas, education, vacations, entertainment, subscriptions and other expenses
  • Documents, including copies of tax returns and financial statements, related to any businesses that you or your spouse own

These documents and records will help provide the court with evidence of the existing marriage, residency, minor children of the marriage, and the nature and extent of marital assets that must be divided between you and your spouse.

You will be surprised to find that documents that were readily available to you before the divorce suddenly disappear after the divorce process begins. You can help make life easier for yourself during the divorce by doing all you can to gather documents before the divorce action begins. If you cannot obtain certain documents, such as the contents of a safety deposit box, for review by your attorney, then it is important to make a detailed list describing the documents – noting dates, document titles and what the documents are about.

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