If you have one foot out the door, you may be tempted to run and as fast as you can – but you’ll need a pre-leaving checklist. It’s important to do a few things to be as prepared as possible and have access to originals or copies of the necessary documents you’ll need for your dissolution.
I’ve broken it down into two categories… To-Do’s and Documents.
Below is a list to get you started:
- Have access to cash. This isn’t the time to raid joint accounts but you can and should have enough money to live and provide for yourself and your children;
- Lock down your social media accounts. And be cool. If you choose to announce your separation, remember your audience and that you can easily look like the bad guy;
- Change the passwords for your smart phone, work/home voicemail and all email accounts;
- Have physical possession of your personal valuables
– jewelry, heirlooms, pictures, etc.; and
- Don’t tip your hand. In many cases, especially for safety, the element of surprise is necessary.
- Personal Federal and State income tax return documents for you and your spouse for the past three years;
- Current pay stubs for yourself and your spouse. Commission agreements and offer letters, if possible;
- Bank statements for personal and business accounts. FOR EVERY account you and/or your spouse has, jointly or individually (certificates of deposit, mutual funds and money market accounts);
- All real estate records, including the marital home and unimproved land, (related paperwork such as the deed, the promissory note, mortgage, statement from the lender showing the balance due, any appraisals of property, and the most recent tax bill);
- If you own a business, tax documents, profit and loss statements, partnership agreements, etc.;
- All retirement accounts and insurance policies; stocks, bonds, annuities, trusts, wills, medical savings accounts, whole life policies, pensions and profit sharing plans;
- Personal property list, such as, furnishings, collections (art, stamp, firearms and coin collections);
- Credit card statements. If you do not have all statements or access to statements. Be sure to at least make a list of all debts (student loans, promissory notes, other loans);
- Vehicle loans, including the title(s), promissory note if the vehicle is encumbered, payment coupon or invoice from most recent payment; and
- Passports, social security cards, and birth certificates for you and your children.
This may seem like a lot to pull together but you don’t want to start chasing these documents down or recreating them when you or your attorney needs them. You (and your attorney) need to know what you’re working with and what assets and debts are part of the marital community.
Plus, if you need to subpoena records or track down potential hidden assets you have a great starting point.
As always, be sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney in order to protect your interests.