Each divorce is different. For some of the more simple divorces I need very few documents. However, in many divorces, even uncontested ones, people have a number of different sources of income and many different assets so I will need quite a few documents. Many of the documents listed below will be necessary to prepare for hearings, prepare proposed settlements, to attend mediation, to proceed to trial, and even if your case does not go to trial, to prepare the Final Decree of Divorce, the Agreement Incident to Divorce, and the necessary closing documents.
One word of caution: Do not make assumptions about how your divorce will proceed. Too many people assume that their divorce is going to be simple or uncontested so they do not obtain the necessary documents and provide them to me. Even if their case settles early, I am not in a position to finalize their divorce because they do not have the necessary information and documents. Also, experience has proven that way too many people think their case is simple when it is not or they are overly optimistic about settlement. I have found the faster, easiest, and least expensive way to handle a divorce is to get the information to your attorney earlier rather than later.
Here is a list of documents that I have found will help your divorce precede more smoothly:
✔ Any prenuptial agreements, post marital agreements, and partition and exchange agreement you and your spouse have signed.
✔ Any prior divorce decree of either party.
✔ Individual income tax returns for the last three to five years, along with any W-2 forms, 1099’s, and K-1 statements.
✔ Tax returns for any business interest you and/or your spouse may own – small private companies, limited liability companies (LLC), limited partnership interests (LP), or real estate investment trusts (REIT).
✔ Any trust and/or will that either spouse may be a beneficiary of.
✔ Checking, savings, credit union, money market, certificates of deposits, and any other account statements.
✔ Brokerage statements, stock portfolios and other investments you and/or your spouse own.
✔ Any employment contracts, stock options grants, stock option statements, vesting schedules, and account statements.
✔ All real estate documents for any real estate you and/or your spouse own an interest in including deeds, deeds of trust, mortgage statements, and property tax statements.
✔ All appraisals of any real estate, personal property, antiques, furniture, equipment and jewelry.
✔ Retirement documents including 12/31 IRA, 401(k), 403(b), and pension statement. Also any employer explanations of employee benefits.
✔ All certificate of title documents, including automobile, boat, jet skis, snowmobile, 4 wheels, and trailers. Also any loan documents connected with these assets.
✔ All life insurance policies (other than employer provided term life insurance) and all annuities.
✔ An inventory of your safety deposit box, including copies of the documents in there and photos of any non-documentary items – like coin collections, jewelry, etc.
✔ All personal financial statements and loan applications filled out by you and/or your spouse in the last five years.
✔ Copies of all loans, debts, obligations and credit card balances that you and/or your spouse owe, including any personal guarantees.
✔ List of any other assets or investments that you and/or spouse own or claim and interest in.
If there are children involved in your divorce you may want to get the following documents in order to prove a need for above guideline child support:
✔ Any documents showing the child support recipient’s needs for child support. This does not mean documents showing that the child and/or recipient of child support is accustomed to a certain lifestyle, but rather, that they actually need the extra child support money. For example, if the recipient is forced to obtain child care or after school care for the child. Helpful documents will include those that show the cost of child care will be too high for the recipient of child support to pay for the child care if the above guideline child support were not granted.
✔ Any documents showing a special need of a child that will cause the recipient of child support to incur extra costs in supporting the child. This includes a mentally or physically handicapped child, or a child that has any medical condition that will cause the recipient of child support to incur extra ordinary costs.
✔ Lastly, it will be important to provide documents that show the obligor’s ability to pay the above guideline child support. This will include anything showing that they have the extra income to pay for the above guideline child support.
If you plan on requesting Alimony or Spousal Maintenance as it is referred to in Texas, here are some documents you might want to gather and provide to your attorney:
✔ Any documents showing the receiving spouse’s inability to provide for their own reasonable needs and living expenses. This may include any documents showing the receiving spouse has a disability or has been fired from his or her job.
✔ Any documents showing that the paying spouse has the ability to pay the spousal maintenance.
✔ Any documents showing the receiving spouse’s inability to obtain employment or higher education to provide for their basic reasonable needs and living expenses.