Divorce is a legal proceeding ultimately decided by a state court. And wherever there are court proceedings, there are endless document requests. The types of documents required are similar from state to state. As for individual documents and the volume thereof, these vary by case.
Most of the documentation involved in a divorce proceeding is related to finances, according to the attorneys at ABM Family Law. As a Chicago family law firm, ABM is intimately familiar with divorce law in Illinois. However, they say documentation is pretty consistent across the country.
A divorce attorney will generally ask for documentation in the following four categories:
1. Individual and Family Income
Even before attorneys get around to negotiating how assets will be split, they have to know the totality of a couple’s income. They have to know how much each spouse earns annually. They also have to know about residual income, such as that earned from investments.
The starting point for all of this is the W-2 form. Annual tax returns for the last 3 to 5 years are on the table as well. Any other documentation proving supplemental income will be requested. Attorneys may request bank statements, employment contracts, and even benefit statements.
2. Savings and Investments
Divorce courts have to know what a couple owns in terms of their savings and investments in order to determine division of assets. Couples should be prepared to furnish statements from all of their financial accounts including savings accounts, stock accounts, mutual funds, etc. If either or both have invested in cryptocurrency, it needs to be documented as well.
Where this gets tricky is in the arena of retirement savings. Yes, retirement accounts may be up for grabs. Attorneys generally ask for documentation about 401(k) and 403(b) accounts. They ask for pension statements, IRA statements, and any other records pertaining to savings and investments the other spouse might be entitled to.
3. Property and Other Hard Assets
Next up are property and other hard assets. A couple’s primary residence generally tops the list. Attorneys need documentation on the property itself as well as mortgage statements and tax documents. This applies to all real estate the couple owns.
As for other hard assets, the net can be cast far and wide. Attorneys need to know about cars, boats, etc. They need to know about collectibles, expensive jewelry, artwork, etc. Any personal property that has significant value will have to be documented.
Likewise, any financial documents relating to hard assets will have to be furnished. If the couple still has an outstanding mortgage or car loans, attorneys want to know. They will want to know about insurance riders, any appraisals done on items of value, and the like.
4. Estate Planning
Finally, divorce attorneys typically ask for documents detailing any estate planning the couple has addressed. If there is a will involved, it will have to be looked at and amended. If a couple has numerous insurance policies – life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, etc. – copies of the policies will need to be furnished.
Some couples establish living trusts and durable powers of attorney. These have to be documented. In cases where healthcare directives have been established for one or both parties, these will have to be disclosed too.
As much as this post has addressed, it is by no means comprehensive. The long and short of it is that divorcing couples need to be prepared to furnish a mountain of documentation based on their individual cases. They should also be prepared to continue furnishing documents right up to settlement.