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Organizing for divorce will result in a more successful initial meeting with your attorney. Before your meeting, gather information and papers relating to your marital and employment history and copies of any Court Orders and prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements. The process of documenting family income and expenses and making copies of important financial papers should begin at the first hint of serious martial trouble.  Sometimes, papers that are thought to be readily accessible will “disappear” when there is the prospect of separation or divorce.

You lawyer will need an accurate picture of your financial situation. Just as you kept a folder for each of the subjects studied in school, you should organize your personal and financial life in notebook or electronic format. While it may be tempting to gather your financial documents in a shopping bag and leave the materials for your lawyer to sort out, your lawyer will save time and you will save money (legal fees) by an organized approach.

The important documents which you will “tab”, include personal and business federal and state income tax returns, W-2 and 1099 statements, pay stubs and bank, mortgage, loan, brokerage and retirement account statements.  Other documents which you and your lawyer will review, include financial statements prepared in connection with loan applications, closing documents relating to the purchase and sale of real estate and deeds and title certificates.  Do not forget the registration statements for vehicles and boats, insurance policies and premium statements.  Other papers of high value are documentation of loans and gifts from family members and others.  It’s alot of “stuff” but you will be grateful for your efforts, in the long run.

Organizing for divorce also requires information about family expenses.  You should do your best to document everyday living expenses such as rent, mortgage payments, car payments, household maintenance, utilities, tuition, child care, medical care, and insurance coverage (life, homeowners, auto, etc.). For many families, checking account and credit card records will be key in establishing a history of these expenses. Do not despair if some or much of the information is not readily available. Your lawyer will not expect you to have a photographic memory and missing information can often be reconstructed.