Deciding to divorce is one of the most important decisions an individual can make. After several months of contemplating it, you and your spouse have decided that it is best for the health of the children and yourselves that you file for divorce. The good news is that you both agree that it is a good idea, but now the work of determining how this new reality will look begins in earnest.
An important step in this process is gathering financial information that your family law attorney will want to see. While it is understood that it will be an emotionally challenging time, financial disputes are common as the couple and their attorneys work towards a fair and equitable settlement. This can involve litigation in a court of law or some alternate form of dispute resolution like mediation.
Important financial documents you need
The financial circumstances of each couple are different, so this list is a short and general version of a longer one a lawyer will need after the initial consultation:
- Individual or joint tax returns
- Proof of current incomes for both spouses
- Bank statements
- Retirement account statements
- Insurance policies
- List of marital assets
- List of other personal property
- Prenuptial agreement if there is one
Marital assets versus individual assets
Marital assets are property (or debt) acquired during the marriage. Traditionally this includes a home, vehicles and investments. Individual assets, on the other hand, are property or assets owned before the marriage. Michigan is an equitable distribution state, which is not the same as 50-50. The above financial documents as well as a general initial discussion with a knowledgeable family attorney can provide individuals with a tentative financial picture of how the divorce will look from a financial perspective.
Getting the right guidance
Disagreements over the financial picture can be minimal or extensive. If the latter is the case, litigation will likely be necessary. It is always advised that clients think about their financial priorities and convey them to their lawyer, who can then work towards the client’s ideal for the best possible outcome.