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divorce processNavigating the Divorce Process:  Essential Information You Need to Assemble



The idea of beginning the  divorce process can be quite unsettling. Whether you find yourself in an unhappy marriage or your spouse has expressed their desire for separation, ignoring the situation and burying yourself under the covers is not a wise approach. Not grappling with the reality of your marital discord can be financially damaging. It’s crucial to gather knowledge and information to navigate through this process, starting from the stage of contemplating divorce to the shocking moment of being served divorce papers.

The initial steps are painless and will get you moving in a positive direction.  First, compile all the necessary information that your attorney will require to effectively advise you and represent your interests. While the specifics may vary based on individual circumstances and situations, the following initial list provides a general idea of the information you and your counsel will need:

  1. All known bank account names, last four account digits, titled account holder and balances. Include any 529 accounts or college funds.
  2. Balances of your investment accounts, with titled holder(s), and last four account digits.
  3. Balances on credit cards and any other debt you’ve incurred, signatories to the debt(s), and account numbers.
  4. Inventory of vehicles, inclusive of cars, trailers, motorcycles, ATV’s, and any other mechanical vehicles purchased during the marriage and any outstanding loan balances.
  5. Listing of any collectibles valued at more than $2500, purchased during marriage, inherited or gifted.
  6. Address of all real estate purchased during the marriage, titled owner(s), Mortgage (and any home equity loan) holder and titled debtor(s). Check the value of your property on Zillow or RedFin.  Include vacant land, time shares and investment properties.
  7. Last three years tax returns, with W2’s, 1099’s or other earning proof, such as a pay stub. Annual social security statements are helpful as well.
  8. List all retirement accounts in pay out status and those not yet paying out. Include 401k, 403b, IRA’s, and annuities.  List titled owner, any loans that you are aware of and current balances if known.
  9. Make a list of all your recurring monthly living expenses to include housing, utilities, insurances, transportation costs, food, clothing, debts, etc.
  10. If either spouse owns or is part owner of a business, make note of the business and discuss this with your counsel. This may require a separate appraisal to determine value.
  11. Sometime spouses have assets/debts before marriage that need consideration.  Sometimes gifts and inheritances to one or both spouses come into play. Jot down your questions and concerns about these to discuss with your attorney.
  12. If you have an estate plan with your spouse, bring any documents to your consult with your attorney. This should be discussed as well as any life insurance you and/or your spouse may have in effect. The more information you have, the more meaningful you consult with an attorney will be.

If you find yourself in the stage of considering divorce, it is advisable to consult with an experienced and reputable attorney. Divorce laws are intricate, and understanding how your actions, and those of your spouse might impact your future rights is crucial. By seeking professional guidance, you can gain clarity and make informed decisions throughout the process. Decisions made in your divorce can impact you financially for years to come. Remember, knowledge is the key to successfully navigating the challenges that lie ahead. Whether the issues can be amicably resolved, or require litigation, we are here to help and guide you.

This is not to be considered legal advice.  You should contact an attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Some material resourced by Redfin.com.

Michele P. Ellerin is Partner concentrating on matrimonial and family law including divorce, child support, child custody, and prenuptials.  She can be reached by phone 845-764-9656 and by email.

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