Spouses considering a divorce have a lot on their minds. Most of the time, people arrive at these decisions with care, weighing their options in anticipation of negotiation.

During these considerations, many people will look closely at their finances as a large chunk of divorce negotiations center on the equitable division of property. Having thorough documentation of assets, investments and income can make negotiations much easier.

Divorce document checklist

Preparing the following documents helps lawyers and the court decide what is equitable when negotiating the property division. Without this paperwork, spouses risk an unfair deal:

  • Income and financial records: Courts weigh individual income quite heavily during negotiations. Primarily, a court needs a couple’s tax returns, both state and federal, for the last five years. Documents outlining stock portfolios, pay stubs, lease agreements, interest, royalties, etc.
  • Business financial records: The courts will look at all personal and joint business ventures. Include ledgers and tax and account information.
  • Itemized property lists: An exhaustive list of each party’s personal and joint property will help courts decide what is fair. Include contracts, insurance policies, and appraisals on assets like furniture, jewelry, clothing, artwork, collections, titles, mortgages, deeds, etc. Note which assets are personal, which are joint, and what each person owned before the marriage.
  • Court records: Courts will also want records of any previous legal action involving either spouse. Identify the plaintiff and defendant, note the charges, and outline damages paid or received.
  • Estate plan/end-of-life documentation: These documents include life insurance payouts, trusts, wills, lists of beneficiaries and dependents, etc. Most couples will redraft these documents after their divorce to reflect their new circumstances.

An attorney can help

Many couples have found success in securing the services of a local lawyer familiar with divorce. An attorney can help spouses locate essential documents, draft negotiations and sift through the dense legal paperwork while their clients can focus on life after marriage.