Step #1 – Understand your current financial reality. Where are you today…financially?
When you are just entering the divorce process, it’s critical to be certain of what you own, what you owe, all of your sources of income (earn), and what you spend.
This may feel overwhelming initially, and will take dedication to accomplish. But, the effort you spend here can save you time and money to put towards you and your families’ future vs spending it on legal fees and the court system.
a. Own? Gather account statements (last 6 months if possible) for you and your spouse’s personal and business checking, savings, money market, investment and brokerage, retirement (IRA, 401k, SEP, etc.), children’s college or education, deferred compensation plans, stock options, annuities, and cash value life insurance. Locate pension and social security statements (www.SSA.gov.), property deeds, and copies of vehicle titles showing vehicle ID number (VIN) and current mileage. Make sure that the statement ending dates are as close as possible to the specific date understood by both parties to be the “date of valuation.”
b. Owe? Locate statements for all credit cards, student loans, additional loans, and mortgage and promissory notes.
c. Earn? Collect at a minimum, six months of pay stubs showing your income, deductions, and bonuses, sources of rental or royalty income, and bank account interest. Also obtain employer benefits guides, and the last three years of personal and business tax returns.
d. Spend? This one is probably the hardest, but is vital - just do your best. I can provide you with data collection forms as a guide as to what to be looking for.
Group all your documents by category and in chronological order. Then scan into private, secure online storage. This will make it easier to access, locate and share with other professionals in the future.
Next time, we will review Step # 2.
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