If you have one foot out the door, you may be tempted to run as fast as you can. But you’ll need a pre-leaving checklist first.
It’s important to be as prepared as possible. This includes having access to the originals or copies of documents you’ll need for your dissolution.
Here is a list of to-dos and documents 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 could easily look like the bad guy.
- Change the passwords for your smartphone, work/home voicemail, and all email accounts.
- Have physical possession of your personal valuables: jewelry, heirlooms, pictures, etc.
- 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 account for EVERY account owned by you and/or your spouse, 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, promissory note, mortgage, statement from the lender showing the balance due, appraisals of property, and the most recent tax bill
- If you own a business, tax documents, profit and loss statements, partnership agreements, and so on
- 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 and collections (art, stamp, firearms, and coin collections)
- Credit card statements, if possible (Note: 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, and payment coupon or invoice from the most recent payment
- Passports, Social Security cards, and birth certificates for yourself and your children
This may seem like a lot to pull together, but you and your attorney need to know what you’re working with and what assets and debts are part of the marital community.
Plus, you don’t want to have to start chasing these documents down or recreating them at the last minute. And, 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 to protect your interests.