Documents and Information You Might Need for Your Divorce
Divorce is complicated, and some divorces are more complicated than others. Divorce issues tend to be divided into financial matters and matters related to child custody arrangements. Your financial concerns will be determined in accordance with your marital financials, and this means that you’re going to need documentation. The better prepared you are to present a complete picture of you and your spouse’s financial standing, the better chance you stand of obtaining divorce terms that support your rights and best interests. If you’re considering or facing a divorce, you need an experienced Annapolis divorce lawyer on your side.
The Terms of Your Divorce
Your divorce will be as unique as you and your marriage are, but there are basic terms that apply to every divorce, including:
- The division of marital property
- Child custody arrangements (for divorcing couples with shared children)
- Child support (for divorcing couples with shared children)
Every divorce case needs to examine how to divide marital property, assets, and debts will be divided. Even if you do not have extensive property, there is almost always something to distribute between the spouses. Alimony, on the other hand, is only an issue in select divorce cases under certain circumstances.
If you and your spouse have children, child-related matters can be the primary focus of your divorce. The outcome of custody determinations can impact your relationship with your child, and child support orders can impact your financial future. It is important to take these matters very seriously and never accept a settlement without having it first reviewed by an experienced divorce attorney.
No matter what issues are relevant in your divorce case, you will need documentation and other evidence to achieve the best possible outcome. Read on for more information, and your attorney can advise you of exactly what you will need in your individual case.
The Division of Your Marital Property
The assets and property that you and your spouse acquired together as a married couple is considered marital property, and in the event of a divorce, it is divided in a manner that the court deems equitable or fair given the circumstances. It is important to note that the assets you acquire during this time remain marital property regardless of who made the purchase or whose name is on the deed or title.
Further, that property that you and your spouse bring with you into the marriage – and keep separate throughout the marriage – will remain your separate property. This line between separate and marital property, however, can be blurred quite easily. For example, if you commingle separate property with marital property, it can convert to marital property. Ultimately, having careful financial documentation is critical to obtaining a fair division of marital property.
Alimony (also called spousal support) does not play a role in every divorce, but if the court finds that one spouse will experience an economic downturn upon divorce and that the other spouse has the financial means to help, it may include alimony in the divorce terms. Again, this determination will likely hinge on accurate financial documentation.
Child Custody Arrangements and Child Support
If you need the court to address your child custody arrangements, it will base its determinations on the best interests of your children, and it will use wide-ranging information in the process. If you have information and/or documentation that supports maintaining the status quo – with you remaining in your family home with the children, for example – or supports another specific outcome, the court will take it into consideration. Things such as school records, report cards, teachers’ comments, eyewitness testimony, and more can all play a role. Finally, while child support is based on the State of Maryland’s calculation guidelines, the court may take extenuating circumstances – such as a child with special needs – into consideration, which makes documentation key.
Dissolving a marriage is never an easy process, and most involve their own unique complications. There are, however, several factors that help to ensure the division of your marital property will be even more complicated, including:
- A divorce involving high assets
- A divorce involving a business
- A divorce involving complicated financials
- A divorce involving multiple properties
- Divorce after a long marriage
Gathering Your Financial Documents
Regardless of where you are in the divorce process – even if you are just considering filing for divorce – it is not too soon to begin gathering documentation. The fact is that the emotional turmoil (and even the physical upheaval – if you end up moving out of your home in the process) can make finding the documents you need far more difficult. Further, if your divorcing spouse engages in unscrupulous behavior (divorce can lead a reasonable-seeming person to act in a way that you might consider completely out of character), it can make the process that much more daunting. Your marital financials are unique to your marriage, but the following fairly exhaustive checklist can help ensure that you gather the bulk of the important documents you need:
- Your mortgage(s)
- Your monthly utility bills
- Your property tax statements
- Your budget worksheet, which should include your cost-of-living expenses, such as the cost of monthly groceries, out-of-pocket medical bills, school tuition and additional school expenses, daycare and babysitting costs, the cost of your children’s extracurricular activities and lessons, and your entertainment expenses
- You and your spouse’s joint (or separate if you filed separately) state and federal income tax returns for the past three to five years
- Your state and federal business income tax returns for the past three to five years (if you are business owners)
- Documentation of you and your spouse’s separate incomes, your employment contracts, and your benefit statements
- Your bank statements from all separate and joint accounts
- Your credit card statements
- Your loan documents
- Statements from retirement accounts
- Your life, health, car, and home insurance policies
- A copy of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement you have in place
- Your financial portfolio, including any trusts, stocks, stock options, and/or other financial tools
- Personal property and real property appraisals
- Your wills, living wills, powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney, and/or advance healthcare directives
- A comprehensive list of contents from all safety-deposit boxes
- A list of those properties considered separate property
- A list of personal possessions of value, including jewelry and watches, artwork, furs and other clothing, home furnishings and home office equipment, vehicles, recreational vehicles, boats, computers, and more
This is a good place to start, but the fact is that – if your financials are especially complicated – this may be just the beginning. You need a savvy divorce lawyer with considerable experience in your corner.
It’s Not Too Soon to Consult with an Experienced Annapolis Divorce Lawyer
Your divorce terms are likely to dramatically affect your future, which makes obtaining fair terms critically. Patrick Crawford at the Law Office of Patrick Crawford is an accomplished Annapolis divorce lawyer who is committed to helping you gather the exacting documentation necessary to protect your financial and parental rights. You and your children’s future is too important to put off contacting or calling us at (410) 216-7905 to learn more about how we can help today.