Your Legal Rights at Work

A Guide To Collecting Your Personal Records Before Filing For Divorce

by Lewis Hamilton

Going through a divorce is rarely easy, and even filing the paperwork can be stressful if you aren't prepared. Fortunately, you can make the process simpler for yourself by gathering together some information before you sit down to file. While specific documentation needs vary by state, the the following guide can help you begin the process well prepared.

Personal documents

You will need to prove who you are, your status, and that you were actually married. To achieve all this requires you to collect your personal documents. These may include the following:

  • Your and your spouse's birth certificates

  • Social security cards or immigration documents

  • Proof of prior divorce from another former spouse or the death certificate of a former spouse

Financial Records

These can be the most difficult items to collect, primarily because it can be time consuming and easy to overlook items. You need to be as thorough as possible because you don't want it to look like you are trying to hide any assets. Examples of common records you may need to complete the paperwork include the following:

  • Bank statements from all accounts, both joint and personal

  • Credit card statements

  • Loan information, including auto, mortgage, student, and personal loans

  • All property records, including titles and deeds

  • Retirement account information

  • Income and tax records

  • Billing invoices, such as from outstanding medical bills

  • Any other expense or spending records

Miscellaneous items

There are also documents that come in handy when filing your divorce paperwork that are dependent upon your situation. For example, if you and your spouse are going through a formal separation, you will need to reference the formal separation agreements as you fill out the paperwork.

Prenuptial agreements are another special case. This will need to be referenced as well, since the way parts of the paperwork will be filled out, especially when it comes to the division of assets, will depend upon what was placed into the prenuptial agreement.

Couples that owned a business together also fall into a special category when it comes to divorce filings. If the business is to be liquidated or split, all financial documents, profit and loss statements, and business agreements will need to be provided. Even if you plan to continue the business as a partnership after the divorce, you may still need to provide the records for the business since it will count as an asset.

Start by making a list of all the records that could possibly pertain to your specific situation. Then, you can check off the items as you collect them together in a file in advance of filling out your divorce paperwork.