People who have gone through a divorce will tell you this: It is a hard day when you realize that your marriage is past the point where it can be saved. Dealing with this hard truth is a mentally and emotionally draining moment, but it is only the first in many challenges ahead. You will need to act quickly so that you protect your rights, and one of the first steps you must take is to gather some very important personal documents to give to your experienced divorce attorney.
What Documents Do I Need for My Divorce?
Undoubtedly, if you have children, the most important aspect of your divorce concerns the battle over custody. However, the battle over the division of property is also extremely important. California is a community property state, which means that the court presumes that any property acquired during the marriage belongs equally to each spouse, unless the property was acquired as a gift or an inheritance, or unless the spouses intended the property to belong exclusively to only one of them.
You need to organize your records so that your attorney has a clear picture of what belongs to you, and what your spouse will claim belongs to him or her. The documents you should bring to your attorney can be divided into the following different categories.
Income and Expenses
If someone other than yourself employs you, you should give your divorce attorney a copy of your and your spouse’s paycheck stubs from the prior year (including bonus payments). If you run your own business, a copy of your tax return should have the information your attorney will need. Also, if you and your spouse have owned a business in the last five years, you should provide all records for the business.
If you provide your attorney with a complete picture of your income and expenses, he or she will be better prepared to argue on your behalf when it comes to matters such as child or spousal support, and be able to fight for you to keep your ownership interest in a business you and your spouse began if you decide to keep the business running.
On the flip side of income, you should also collect statements that show any debts. This includes credit card statements, medical bills, car payments, or student loans from you or your spouse. Credit card statements can also be important evidence in disputes over any items that you want to claim were purchased by your spouse as a gift to you.
In many divorce cases, couples argue over whether personal property was bought with a spouse’s separate money – such as earned income from before the marriage, or an inheritance – or with funds that are shared by the couple as part of the marriage. The court will “trace” the funding of personal property back to the source of the funds, and if you can provide a record of your bank accounts that shows the property was bought with your separate funds, your case will be much stronger. Try to bring at least two years of statements from every bank account in your name, your spouse’s name, and any jointly owned accounts.
Retirement, Life Insurance, and Investment Accounts
It is equally important to provide your attorney with a complete picture of your potential future income. This includes any pension accounts, 401(k) or IRA accounts, and any life insurance or annuity policies you have purchased. If you own stocks, mutual funds, certificates of deposit (CDs), or any other investment property, you should provide statements of those as well.
Personal Property and Real Estate
Finally, it is important to give your attorney any records concerning ownership of personal property (such as any vehicles you or your spouse might own), and any real estate in your name, your spouse’s name, or that is jointly owned. This includes title documents, insurance, mortgage payment information, and property tax assessments. If possible, you should provide the documents showing the initial purchase of the personal property or real estate. Providing these documents to your attorney can help him or her protect your interest in your property.
The Family Law Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Are Ready to Help
If you are planning a divorce or legal separation, it is important that you understand every step of the complex legal process. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled and knowledgeable family law attorneys have over 30 years of experience helping clients obtain the best possible outcome in their divorce. If you choose Wallin & Klarich to guide you through the divorce planning process, you can trust that your case will be in very capable hands.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, an experienced Wallin & Klarich family law attorney is nearby no matter where you are located.
For a free phone consultation, call (888) 749-7428 today. We will be there when you call.