You and your spouse may have gone through every possible step to resolve your differences and save your marriage. However, if it is clear that things are not going to work out, you would be wise to take steps soon to protect your rights during the divorce and property division.
Some divorcing spouses feel discouraged and weary by the time they begin divorce proceedings, and this may cause them to make mistakes that cost them dearly for years to come. Seeking legal advice as early as possible after making the decision to divorce can help you to obtain a fair settlement or ruling and create custody decisions you and your family can live with. However, to make the most efficient use of your time and money, it is best to be prepared before your first visit to an attorney.
Organizing your documents
Perhaps the most important thing your can do to get ready for your meeting with a lawyer is to gather and organize as much documentation as possible. Make copies of everything you intend to share with your attorney and arrange them in a logical, systematic order for easy reference. Some of the documentation you will need includes the following:
- Tax returns for the past three years or longer
- Ledgers showing any cash payments you or your spouse received for work
- Any financial information used to obtain a loan from a bank, whether individually or jointly
- Copies of investments including retirement accounts, pensions and life insurance
- An inventory of assets with their current values, such as titles for vehicles, tools or art, whether separately or jointly owned
- Information about your home and other real estate and their mortgages
- Bank statements from joint and separate accounts for the past two years
- A list of household bills, debts and expenses
- Pay stubs from the last year from your employer and your spouse's employer
If you or your spouse are self-employed, you can gather tax returns and other tax forms that show income, as well as other documentation that demonstrates the profit or value of a business in which either of you has an interest.
Organizing these items into categories such as income, real estate, debts and investments, will help your attorney obtain an overall view of the financial circumstances of your marriage. In this way, you can begin to build a strategy for property division that will be fair and equitable so that you can move into your future with as little stress as possible.