A divorce can be complicated since it is not unlike a business dissolution. Assets need to be accounted for and valued, and classified as premarital or marital. Debts are assessed, and other matters must be addressed before property and funds are distributed. If child support or alimony is agreed upon or ordered, the amount needs to be established and for how long it is to be paid.
You will need a great number of documents to show evidence of marital and non-marital assets along with you and your spouse’s income and net worth. If divorce is imminent or has been discussed, promptly begin accumulating documents that your attorney will need, so that he or she has a firm grasp of your family’s financial status.
The following is a checklist of most of the documents you typically will need:
- Marriage license.
- Birth certificates for you, spouse and minor children. These can be obtained from the county where the births were recorded.
- Social Security numbers for all family members.
- Did you sign a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement? Provide a copy or get one from the attorney who prepared it for you.
- Were you or your spouse previously married? If so, get a copy of the dissolution agreement. You can find this in the court records where the divorce was finalized. The Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics has these, if the divorce was in Florida.
- Copy of your employment contract, if any. If your spouse will not give you a copy or the employer will not, your attorney will have to request or subpoena it.
- Copies of tax returns for the past 5 years. You can obtain these from the accountant or CPA who completed If done online, download them. Your spouse should know that these must be disclosed so that any password needed to retrieve them must be given to you.
- Copies of W-2 and 1099 forms for at least the past 3 years for both of you. Paystubs for the past 3 years, if possible, are also needed. Ask your employer or HR department for these or they will be subpoenaed, if you do not provide them.
- Retirement account statements from the insurer or from your HR representative.
- Life insurance policies.
- Health insurance policy.
- Homeowner’s policy.
- Mortgage statements or rental agreement.
- Bank statements for checking and saving accounts for past 12 months.
- CD account statements and money market account records.
- Make a list of your monthly expenses. If you can, keep receipts for the month before you separate to give you a good idea of where the money is going.
Property and Assets
- Tax statements regarding your home and other real property. If a recent appraisal was done, obtain a copy.
- Legal descriptions of all real property.
- Deeds to property.
- List of property such as stock certificates or gold coins in safe deposit boxes.
- Loan documents on cars, boats or other large items and copies of titles.
- If you have rental property, provide all documents relating to them such as lease agreements, property descriptions, property management expenses and anything else related to it.
- A list of all other property you own, jointly or separately.
- Credit card statements evidencing debt owed.
If you own a business or have interests in one, accumulate as many documents regarding your business including:
- Statements regarding revenues, profits, debts, accounts receivables and expenses.
- Federal and state tax returns for the past 3 to 5 years
- Profit and loss statements.
- Vendor, employee and other business contracts.
- Corporate bylaws, articles of incorporation, records and minutes.
- Partnership agreement, if applicable.
- Balance sheets and financial statements.
- Shareholder contracts.
- Deeds, mortgages and leases.
The CPA or accounting firm that handles your business matters should have most, if not all, of these documents, or they may be found wherever corporate or business contracts and records are kept in the principal office. Rules 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure provides a itemized list of all documents/items required during a divorce or paternity proceeding. However, the opposing party may request additional financial records as long as such are relevant to the proceeding.
Should there be a custody dispute, you should be prepared to defend yourself against allegations of misconduct or alleged evidence of poor parenting or even abuse. If your spouse is guilty of such wrongdoing, you will need police reports, identity of witnesses to support your allegations or defenses, photographs and medical records of injuries to yourself or children, copies of TROs and records of criminal convictions. For matters regarding disposition of your assets and debts or even to support your desire for a divorce, evidence of misconduct is irrelevant since Florida is a no-fault state. This means you need only allege that there are irreconcilable differences.