Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

How to get organized before your divorce

Once you know you and your spouse are going to divorce, there may be several tasks you must complete to prepare for the divorce process. However, one of the first tasks you should consider taking is getting organized. Although sorting through paperwork may not sound like a fun way to spend your time, the work you put into organization now will help save you time and headaches as you begin to take on other divorce preparation tasks.

Locate all important documents

A recent Forbes article recommends you start the organization process by taking inventory of your family's assets, accounts and financial documents. If you did not help manage the finances in your family, this may be a discovery process. If you have already been involved with your family's finances, you may know right away what documents you must locate.

Some documents you may want to gather, include:

  • Personal financial statements
  • Bank account statements
  • Real estate deeds
  • Loan documents
  • Credit card statements
  • Estate planning documents
  • Insurance policies

File documents in a logical way

You may need to make copies of important documents, so both you and your spouse can include the information in your records. Then, you many need to incorporate an organizational strategy, so you can find important documents when you need them.

Generally, it works best to group related documents together. For example, all of your estate planning documents can be located in one folder. All of your documents related to the house can be located in another folder. In addition to making these documents easier to find, this type of organization can help make sure you receive your fair share when it comes time to divide the assets.

Classify assets and debts

Once you have your documents gathered and organized, you will be able to parse out which assets are community property and which assets are separate property. You can begin this process by listing everything your family owns. Be sure to include assets and debts. Then, for each item, consider if it was acquired during the marriage. Items acquired during the marriage are almost always community property.

An item may be separate property if you or your spouse owned it before you were married. An inheritance or gift made to only one spouse would also be separate property, as would any money earned from separate property.

Verify that you have located and organized any documents related to any of the assets or debts that you list. If you know the value of any of these items, it can also be beneficial to include that in your list because all community assets and community debts must be eventually divided so each spouse ends up with about the same value of assets and debt.

The divorce process can feel chaotic. However, if you are organized from the start, you can minimize some of the stress you experience during that hectic time. Sometimes, being organized can even help protect you from receiving less than you are entitled to in your divorce.

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