One of the hallmarks of an impending divorce is a noticeable change in financial status within the family household. Retirement plans get moved to new accounts. Joint checking accounts and credit card accounts begin to show unusual activity, such as unexplained charges or cash withdrawals. Some spouses will defer discussing the desire for a formal divorce until they have, in their mind, secured the family cash and the assets in a hidden account.
Judges will eventually require the return of marital assets to marital accounts, but all of us that work in the court system know that getting these injunction orders takes time and effort. It can be far better to be proactive in protecting marital assets, and securing copies of accounts, once the financial “red flags” of impending divorce start to appear.
I’ve provided a list of 12 items you might gather to ensure that you have most of the critical information in hand before your spouse has a chance to conceal, transfer or sell marital items. These include (but are not limited to) obtaining:
1. Copies of bank and credit card statements, either from the bank or from online access;
2. Copies of recent 1040 tax returns, W-2s and 1099’s;
3. Copies of insurance policies;
4. Copies of retirement plan statements, including pension plans for qualified employees;
5. Copies of wills, codicils, and trusts;
6. Copies of titles to real property and vehicles;
7. Copies of receipts or statements for all nonmarital property;
8. Copies of small business ledgers, financial journals, payroll, sales tax returns and expense account records, for self employed individuals;
9. Copies of appraisals for art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles;
10. Video or Excel/photo inventory of each room and its contents in your home;
11. Copies of any loan applications or other docs that show sources of income/assets;
12. Copies of your spouse’s pay stubs for the last months and recent end of year.