What You Need to Know about Your Finances Before You Divorce

The financial aspects of divorce are numerous and complex. Even financially sophisticated clients often come to the initial consultation without all of the necessary information. This article should help guide you to gather the critical financial information and documents your divorce lawyer will need in order to advise you about support, alimony, and equitable distribution.

In many cases, some of these financial records may be in your spouse’s control and you may not have access to them. This is an issue to discuss with your lawyer when you meet. However, before your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer you should understand your family finances, and gather as much information as you can about the following:

    • Information you need: How much you and your spouse earn; who prepares your taxes; how much you pay in taxes; and where your financial records are stored.
    • Documents you need: Most recent tax returns with all schedules and attachments (several years’ worth if possible); your most recent paystub and your spouse’s most recent paystub; year-end paystubs for both of you; tax documentation for income from any other source (most of this should be attached to your tax return).
    • Information you need: The amounts deposited into your bank account and the amounts withdrawn or spent each month; how much money you have saved; and where your bank statements are located (and/or how to access them online).
    • Documents you need: Bank statements for all accounts that you hold jointly or separately for the past year or more, if possible.
    • Information you need: What it costs to run your household. You should have access to the bills for your family’s expenses.
    • Documents you need: Not strictly needed in most cases, but a full set of bills, bank, loan, and credit card statements for the past year should help you figure out what you spend. If you aren’t already using a budget, now is a good time to start tracking this. At a minimum, you need information and invoices for your children’s expenses, including daycare costs, tuition bills for school or preschool, bills for camp, extra-curricular activity costs, and cost of medical insurance coverage.
    • Information you need: A full list of all employee benefits of both you and your spouse, whether or not you currently participate; the cost of participation, if any; if one spouse covers the other on medical insurance; which spouse covers the children on health insurance.
    • Documents you need: Employee handbooks, annual compensation letters, statements on accounts, correspondence from employer about benefits, and paystubs.
    • Information you need: What insurance you and your spouse have, including life insurance and disability insurance.
    • Documents you need: policies, declaration pages, premium statements and invoices.
    • Information you need: What you own, including real estate, bank accounts, investment and stock accounts, retirement savings, business interests, cars, and any other large assets you and your spouse own (whether owned individually or jointly).
    • Documents you need:
      • For real estate – deeds, appraisals, mortgage statements, applications to lenders;
      • For bank, investment, stock, and retirement accounts – statements;
      • For business interests – tax returns, agreements, profit and loss statements, general ledgers;
      • For motor vehicles – printout of full webpage from showing value of each motor vehicle;
      • And for other assets, any official statement, appraisal, or communication about ownership and/or value.
  • DEBT:
    • Information you need: What you owe, including mortgages, loans of any kind (e.g. home equity, car loans, personal loans), credit card debt.
    • Documents you need: statements showing amounts due and amounts paid.
    • Information you need: The amounts you received, are receiving, or will receive from any estate or trust of which you are a beneficiary; the financial arrangements you have made in your own estate plan.
    • Documents you need: Wills and trusts of which you are a beneficiary, accounts that you may have for receiving these funds, your own estate planning documents.

This is an enormous undertaking, but understanding your family’s finances is essential to your lawyer making accurate analysis of your case.

The divorce and family law attorneys of Shemtob Draganosky Taylor Stein, PC can guide you through the financial aspects of your divorce. Call our family lawyers in Montgomery County at (215) 544-3974 for a confidential discussion.