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Locate your financial records before seeking a divorce

If you’re considering divorce, whether you believe your spouse is or not, it’s smart to be prepared before you broach the subject. No matter how reasonable your spouse is and how much you trust them to be fair as you divide assets and settle financial matters during the proceedings, you never know.

An impending divorce can bring out the worst in people. That’s more commonly the case if it wasn’t their idea or if they believe their spouse betrayed them or treated them badly in some way.

That’s why it’s crucial to get as clear of a picture of your shared financial assets as possible before you ask for a divorce. This means doing some homework about your assets, debts, taxes and more. Even if you end up resolving things and staying together, knowing more about your finances is never a bad thing – particularly if your spouse is the one who has taken charge of these matters during the marriage.

That means finding out where documents are and accessing them. Some things may still be on paper, but likely most of it is accessible online. It’s best to locate it before your spouse has a chance to change access information and passwords or to move money around or hide assets.

What do you need to find?

Among the things you should locate are the following:

  • Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
  • Titles to real estate, vehicles and other property you’ve purchased together
  • Bank, retirement and investment accounts
  • Credit card statements
  • Any documents showing your ownership or financial interest in a business
  • Tax returns from the past few years
  • Mortgage and other loan documents
  • Documents showing your income and your spouse’s income – including bonuses, stock options and other items that contribute to overall income
  • Anything that shows your monthly expenditures on housing, school, childcare and more (to help you create a post-divorce budget)

Once you locate these, you may need to make copies in case you lose access to them after you begin the divorce process. You’ll also want to keep an eye on accounts and credit cards to make certain your spouse isn’t depleting your funds or racking up credit card bills.

If you seek legal assistance early, you can get experienced guidance on other things you should do to prepare. This can give you an advantage as you seek a settlement that will provide you with financial security.