When a married couple decides to end their marriage, they may be initially too wrapped up in the emotional side of divorce to begin preparing for the process. This is completely understandable. Divorce is a big change, and it can be one that comes unexpectedly for many spouses.
It may take you a bit of time to get your bearings. However, it can be advantageous to begin preparing for divorce sooner rather than later.
Which documents are important to collect?
Collecting documents may be one of the first steps you want to take to prepare for divorce. During divorce, both you and your spouse will need your own copies of all your family’s important documents. By acting early, you can reduce the chance that some of those important documents disappear or become unavailable to you.
Some of your family’s documents you may want to collect, include:
• Tax returns from the last five years
• Pay stubs
• Bank statements, including investment accounts
• Employment contracts
• Benefits statements
• Retirement account statements
• Mortgage statements
• Loan applications
• Deeds to all properties
• Utility bills
• Vehicle registrations
• Estate planning documents
• Monthly budget documents
This list can appear overwhelming, especially if it will take some hunting to find some of these documents. However, going through your family’s paperwork and getting yourself organized can be cathartic. It can help you get an idea of some of the details that will need to be hashed out during your divorce, and it can help you envision what your post-divorce future may look like.
What should you do with the documents after collecting them?
When you have collected all the documents that you need, you may begin to think about where you might store them. Remember that you and your spouse will both need copies of these documents. However, you will want to make sure your copies are kept in a secure place where they won’t easily be tampered with.
You also may want to consider how you will organize these documents. You are not obligated to keep the organizational system that you used in your marital home. The system you use only needs to make sense to you.
You went to all the trouble of finding the documents once. It can reduce your stress during your divorce if you have similar documents grouped together in a way that allows you to find a particular document as soon as you need it.
Divorce can certainly be an emotional process, but it is also business. If your marriage is ending in divorce, it may be reasonable for you to take the necessary steps to protect your interests. Collecting the right documents early in the process can be one step that helps you achieve more of the divorce outcomes that matter most to you.