Paper Chase: Understanding Your Divorce Documentation

If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, there is much you can do to be prepared for the confusing mounds of paperwork that will be required. You will be asked for certain documents, and you will be on the receiving end of more documents. To get a quick and easy primer on what to expect, and read on for a guide on understanding your divorce documentation:

Legal Separation Agreement

While not a requirement in all states, these legal documents are always a great idea. Once you and your spouse separate, you will need to ensure that certain important matters are attended to, and having an agreement means that the time period between the divorce filing and the final decree is fully covered. Agreeing to some issues ahead of time not only makes the transition period smoother, but it can also end up making the entire divorce process easier to deal with. That is because any issues addressed in the legal separation agreement can be "folded" into what will become the final decree. Take a look at just a few of the key divorce issues a legal separation agreement can cover:

1. Minor children: every effort should be made to lessen the impact on children, and often that can mean staying in the family home for the time being. You can, and should, address which parent gets temporary physical custody of the child and prepare a visitation plan for the other parent. Additionally, you should take action to have the judge issue a temporary child support order to ensure that your child gets financial assistance from the non-custodial parent.

2. Spousal support: If you can show good cause for receiving spousal support during the separation period, it can be so ordered.

3. Debt: While the division of all marital debt will undoubtedly be decided before the final decree is issued, you should address this matter in the legal separation agreement as well. Depending on how your state handles divorce and debt, an agreement can create a virtual "line in the sand" for your separation, which could prevent you from having to be responsible for paying some of your spouse's debts that were incurred after you separated.

The Parenting Plan

Most courts now refer to the issues of child custody and visitation as parenting plans (or even co-parenting plans). Often this plan is separate from the main decree, and you can expect the family court system to place a great deal of emphasis on doing what is in the best interest of the child, and not necessarily the parents. In most cases, parents can choose between two main types of parenting plans: 50/50 (or shared) and joint custody.

Tax Returns

Your attorney will probably ask you to provide tax returns for the last several years, usually the last two years at least. If you cannot lay your hands on paper copies of your returns, you can request transcripts of those returns from the IRS. Be aware that the IRS can take a long time to comply with this request, so do it early on.

Miscellaneous Financial Documents

You can help the entire divorce process go a lot smoother by assembling a package of the following miscellaneous documents:

  • Mortgage loan information
  • Real estate deeds
  • Vehicle titles
  • Wills and trusts documentation
  • Investment, savings and checking account information
  • Life, health, burial and other insurance information
  • Information about any other loans
  • Credit card balances and information
  • Pay stubs and bank statements

Speak with your divorce attorney like Karen Robins Carnegie PLC to learn more about what to expect when it comes to paperwork during the divorce process.