By: Fisher Law | 12 Nov

What documents and papers do I need for a divorce?

Filing for divorce is typically a gut-wrenching decision and one that is made after much deliberation. So what comes next after you have decided to file for divorce or separation? In order to be prepared for your initial meeting with your attorney, it is a good idea to compile select documents and paperwork, as those items will most likely be needed at some point. I always tell my clients it is much better to have more documentation than you may end up using instead of wishing we could track something down in the eleventh hour before we actually need it. As you probably know already, it can sometimes take several weeks or longer to obtain documents and paperwork from companies, banks, or other business entities.

As such, I suggest that my clients bring in copies of their last three years of State and Federal income tax returns, with all attachments including all W-2’s and IRS Form 1099’s, their last six months of paystubs from their current employer(s), a recent Social Security Earnings Statement (which may be obtained online through a secure portal), their last six months of monthly bank statements for any and all accounts with their name on it, including joint accounts, pictures of the interior and exterior of the home in which they live, several family pictures of a celebration or happy occasion, a list of benefits offered by or through their employer(s), including the cost of all health insurance options offered by or through the employer, a current statement for all retirements accounts including but not limited to IPERS accounts, 403(b) plans, or Thrift Savings Plans. It is also a good idea to document the account balance for each financial account as of the date of filing the divorce case, as sometimes that figure is difficult to track down at a later date if needed.

In addition, sometimes text messages and emails are valuable and important in a case, particularly cases involving a custody disputes. Quite frequently, my clients show me hundreds of text message exchanges on their smartphones and ask how we can use them in court. I am now recommending that my clients obtain an “App” or application called “SMS Export,” or something similar. This app allows all text messages to be uploaded or downloaded from the iPhone or smartphone to the computer, where they can be displayed in chronological or reverse chronological order. The end result is a spreadsheet that is very organized and valuable for court, and shows the content and time sent for all documented text messages. This app is free or available for purchase at low cost. I highly recommend using it.

In conclusion, it is a good idea to document as much as possible, and courts love paperwork and exhibits that definitively give answers and data. Each court case can be unique and may require additional documents and paperwork, but procuring the above-referenced documents is an excellent way to stay organized from the start. Good luck and happy hunting!