Save time, money, and stress by preparing your paperwork and possessions for divorce

Going through a divorce is a hectic and emotionally trying time. And finding, organizing, and prioritizing various paperwork are probably not at the top of your personal to-do list while you’re dealing with the emotional and financial fallout of a formal separation.

However, legal proceedings hinge on evidence, and paperwork serves as exactly that. Being prepared with the proper documentation can save you additional time and stress in the long run. Educate yourself on what documents you need to keep on hand during and after the divorce process.

Being prepared

Correct documentation and its organization can be significant assets to your attorney and your divorce outcome; this is one area in which being overprepared can be a very good thing. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” is an appropriate adage to follow as you gather information.

Organize early: Get everything together before you’re asked and keep it in a convenient location so that you can access it immediately. Having a designated place for all potentially relevant documents can save you from anxiety or last-minute searches in the future. Buy a filing box and some folders or dividers for easy identification and access.

Start the process off smoothly by having this finished before you even initiate the filing process—this is particularly important if you’re the one who will be leaving the home. If you don’t have access to necessary information, your lawyer may have to file formal discovery requests which will cost you valuable time and money, in addition to creating the potential for lost evidence.

Know what’s necessary: Although your attorney will have a more-specific list, there are some documents you should have access to no matter what, and you may as well make copies and find a safe place for these items while you are getting organized. A good starting point of necessary divorce documents includes:

  • Recent pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Financial statements for businesses
  • Tax returns
  • Mortgage documents
  • Jewelry and real estate appraisals
  • Stock or investment portfolios
  • Credit card statements
  • Retirement account information
  • Social security cards
  • Marriage certificate
  • Birth certificates
  • Life, health, home, and auto insurance policies
  • Loan statements

Create a personal inventory: Division of assets can quickly become contentious. And without proper proof, it can also become a game of he said/she said once items are missing from the home and fail to appear on financial disclosures submitted by your ex. Help mitigate the potential damage of dishonesty by creating a detailed inventory of your household possessions.

Make a spreadsheet of items of value (including make, model, and serial numbers, when applicable), collect any receipts or appraisals, and go through the home, cabinets, and garage and take dated photos and/or video of everything inside. Hopefully, this is one of those preventative measures that ends up being unnecessary, but you’ll be glad you have it if there is a property-related dispute.

Once the dust settles

Once you’ve finalized your divorce, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief after maneuvering through that complicated process—but you’ve also got new documents to deal with now. Create a new category in your filing box and keep the following:

Divorce decree: Make sure you have at least one copy that has the official court seal on it. Your divorce decree details how future issues are to be handled, so keeping it on hand is important. It’s also essential to the process of changing your name, if that’s a step you’re taking.

Appraisals: Experts may have assessed the value of real estate, jewelry, businesses, or other assets such as retirement accounts during the proceedings. Keep this information in case you need to reference it in the future.

Financial records: A lot of financial information such as bank statements, canceled checks, tax returns, and credit card statements will be necessary during the divorce process. You will likely need this information again when it’s time to file your taxes; however, you may also need to provide it if your ex-spouse seeks a modification of child support and you need to substantiate how the original number was determined by the courts.

Even the most amicable divorces can quickly become logistically or emotionally complicated, so hope for the best while preparing for the worst. Creating an inventory of personal possessions and making back-up copies of important documentation will give you the inner peace that comes with being prepared. Start the upcoming chapter of your life knowing that you’re ready for anything. Family Plan is committed to empowering parents after divorce or separation by helping with organization, improving collaboration, and simplifying payment obligations to reduce stress and eliminate potential conflict. Download our app to get started.