As you consider whether to move ahead and file for divorce, there are steps you can take to make yourself more organized and to have a better understanding of your financial situation as it currently stands and what it may look like in the future. Clients can also help keep their costs down by being organized and gathering their financial documents ahead of time. Our checklist helps you start working on collecting your documents that you will need during your divorce process.
It is important to gather all of these documents or have a valid reason as to why you cannot get or access them. A court will want to know why you are unable to provide the information. If your spouse has not provided it to you, a court may accept that. However, if you can go down to the bank and get a copy of the bank statements, a court will expect you to take those steps.
I view this checklist as the need for an umbrella or raincoat in Florida: It is better to have all of these items and not need them, than to need them and not have them. My most organized clients have obtained their documents in a timely manner, organized the documents in an efficient manner, and have been able to significantly reduce their litigation costs for their divorce.
Divorce Documents Checklist:
_____ A completed Financial Affidavit
- If you earn less than $50,000 gross income (before taxes), you should fill out Family Law Financial Affidavit Short Form, Form 12.902(b).
- If you earn more than $50,000 gross income (before taxes), you should fill out Family Law Financial Affidavit Long Form, Form 12.902(b).
- Either form can be downloaded from the Florida Supreme Court website HERE.
_____ Proof of your income for the past 3 years
You must provide information from every single thing you earn income from. This includes working as a W-2 employee, work as a 1099-contractor, self-employment, real estate income, K-1 partnership income, etc.
- If you receive income as a W-2 employee, provide your last 3 months of paystubs
- If you receive income as a 1099-contractor, provide your last 3 months of proof of income.
- If you are self-employed, provide your last two quarter’s profit and loss statement or a monthly profit and loss statement for the last six months.
- To prove your income for the past 3 years, gather your last 3 tax returns. Make sure to include all of your W-2s, 1099s, K-1s, Schedules, etc. from your prior tax returns also.
_____ Copies of all deeds, deeds of trust, and purchase agreements involving real property.
- You can access and download your deed online at the Clerk of Courts website for the county you live in. Make sure you access the official website for the county. Sometimes, when you search for the website, unofficial websites trying to sell you documents pop up. There is currently no charge for you to access and download official records.
- You can download your deed by searching the Official Records. You can search Official Records by your name. You can download a PDF of your deed directly from the website.
- If you have a lease-to-own or rent-to-own agreement, make sure to get a copy of that agreement from your landlord.
_____ Copies of all monthly bank statements, brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts for the past 6 months.
It is important that you obtain all account statements that have your name on them, regardless of whose account it is. If your name is on an account with another person, you will need to provide that account statement. When you are saving your documents to your computer or storage, make sure to title each document fully with the name of the institution, the last 4 numbers of the account, and the month and year of the statement. This will help keep your statements organized. If you have 5 accounts, and you need 6 months of each account statement, you will want to keep those 30 documents as organized as possible.
- Most banks allow you to download your bank statements directly from the online website. You can download a PDF document/statement from the website right to your computer. This is often the easiest way to get bank statements.
- If you have to go to the bank to get bank statements, try calling the branch first. Let the banker know what you need and give them a week or so to get the documents together. Make sure to ask the bank if there is a charge for them obtaining or printing your documents. Some banks charge; some do not.
- If you have a brokerage account, you can often log into your account(s) online and download your statements from there. If you have to go in to the office to get your brokerage statements, again – call ahead, let them know what you need, and ask if there is a charge.
- If you have a retirement account, you can often log into your account(s) online and download your statements from there. If you have to go in to the office to get your retirement account statements, again – call ahead, let them know what you need, and ask if there is a charge.
_____ Copies of all life insurance policies and premiums paid.
We usually only hear from our life insurance company once a year, when the premium amount is renewed, reviewed, and/or paid. If you cannot remember who your life insurance company is, take a look at your bank statements that the premium is paid out of and what month you last remember paying the premium. That should help you locate the name of the life insurance company.
- Log in online to the life insurance company. You should be able to download a copy of your declarations/pay out information, your last statement, and a copy of your policy.
- If you do not have log in information, call your life insurance company. Let them know that you would like a copy of your policy and the most recent statement/information they have for your account. Some companies will email you information at no charge. However, always be sure to ask if there is a charge for obtaining the information.
_____ Copies of all documents, including those electronically stored, that indicate the value of any real or personal property.
Documents that could provide the value of any real property include any appraisals for the property, any inspections done by an insurance company or your bank if you are or are planning to refinance, or your property appraiser’s valuation that you are taxed on.
- If you are considering divorce, or even if you aren’t, you should consider obtaining an appraisal on the home. There are a handful of companies that provide real estate valuations. Make sure to select a company that is licensed and insured. They should also provide a written report. If you do not know a company, ask a friend who recently sold a home or a trusted realtor. People who have dealt with buying and/or selling properties have most likely used a real estate appraiser.
- If you have had an insurance claim on your property, you most likely had a public adjuster come out and provide a written report. The insurance company probably also sent out someone to review the damage and provide a written report. Both reports may be beneficial in determining the property’s value and any damage that may need to be repaired before sale. If you do not want to or plan to sell the home, you may want the repair reports to make sure the cost to repair is taken into consideration when one of you will need to make an offer to buy out the other person’s share.
- If you are planning to refinance or you have refinanced lately, chances are your bank or lender will have done an appraisal or a valuation on your home. Since that was not done by you, that valuation may provide a neutral value for your property.
- Your county’s property appraiser also provides the value of your home upon which you are taxed. You can access your county’s property appraiser online and search for your property by your name or address. You can then print or download that page to demonstrate what the property appraiser believes your home is worth.
Personal property is not something people value often. However, if you have expensive, rare, or new items in your home, they may have an official value. You should gather those documents and keep a copy of them.
- If you have expensive items in your home, such as jewelry or art, you most likely had those items appraised or insured at or near the time of purchase. Make sure that you keep a copy of that appraisal or the insurance paperwork on those items.
- Make sure to gather or take photographs of the items. Make sure that you take a variety of photos, especially of jewelry, to see all the angles and any special characteristics of the jewelry.
- If you have rare items in your home, chances are you may have notified your homeowners’ insurance company and/or obtained a rider or addendum to your policy to cover these rare items. You should contact your homeowners’ insurance company to get a copy of the policy (including all riders and addendums) regarding these rare items. Additionally, you may have obtained separate insurance from another company for these items. Wherever they are insured, make sure you have a copy of the policy and photos of the items.
- If you have newer items in your home, you may have the receipts from the original purchase. Those receipts may provide the value of the items. A new bedroom set may have a much higher value than a 15-year-old bedroom set. Receipts and photos of the items can help you prove their value.
- Make a list – Consider making a list of items of personal property, including household furniture, furnishings, antiques, artwork, vehicles, jewelry, and your estimate of fair market value. Your estimate of fair market value is what you think someone would actually pay to buy the item, not the value of what you would like someone to buy it for.
_____ Copies of all credit card statements for the past 12 months
It is important that you obtain all credit card account statements that have your name on them, regardless of whose account it is. If your name is on an account with another person, you will need to provide that account statement. When you are saving your documents to your computer or storage, make sure to title each document fully with the name of the institution, the last 4 numbers of the account, and the month and year of the statement. This will help keep your statements organized. If you have 5 accounts, and you need 12 months of each account statement, you will want to keep those 60 documents as organized as possible.
- Most credit card companies allow you to download your credit card statements directly from the online website. You can download a PDF document/statement from the website right to your computer. This is often the easiest way to get credit card statements.
- However, you should do this often, as credit card companies do not keep your statements active as long as banks often do. One of my credit card companies will only allow me to access the last 3 months of statements online.
- If you have to call your credit card company to get your account statements, let them know exactly which statements you need. Make sure to ask how long it will take to get the documents, how the documents will arrive (U.S. mail or email), and if there is a charge for obtaining or printing your statements.
_____ Copies of all documents showing any debt currently owed including mortgages, notes, liens, encumbrances, and all statements for the past 12 months.
In addition to the credit card statements, you want to gather all documents for all other money you owe to anyone else. This can also include personal loans owed to friends or family, past due electric bills, or overdue gym memberships.
- If you have a mortgage, collect your mortgage statements or download them online from your bank. Many banks also provide a year end statement showing the mortgage payments made and the interest paid on the account.
- If you have a 2nd mortgage or a home equity line of credit, make sure to obtain those statements also.
- If you owe a promissory note to anyone, you should have a copy of the signed promissory note. Also reach out to the person you owe the note to and request a payoff statement. This payoff statement will show the current amount due and owing, including any interest. This will be the most accurate accounting of what is currently due on the note.
- You may want to see if there are any liens on your real property. You could search the Official Records for the county you reside in to see if there are any liens against your name or your property. If there are liens, you want to know who you owe money to and for what. You can also do a title search on your property to confirm there are no liens against your real property. The most common liens are by the IRS for back taxes owed and for contractors who did work on the property and remain unpaid. You could also have personal liens against your for unpaid amounts by a credit card company or collection agency.
_____ Copies of all business tax returns, balance sheets, and profit and loss statements for the past 5 calendar years.
If you run a business, you want to make sure your paperwork is all in order. This includes your profit and loss statements, balance sheets, accounts receivable, and accounts payable information. If your paperwork and accounting is not in order, consider hiring a bookkeeper to help you understand the value of your business. Getting a grip on your finances now, rather than in the middle of your divorce, will be less stressful and easier to focus on.
- Gather your last 5 years of tax returns. If your business has not been in existence for 5 years, gather all tax returns as well as your organizing or incorporation documents. In Florida, you can download that information from Sunbiz (Florida Secretary of State Division of Corporations).
- Gather 5 years of Balance sheets. If your tax returns already include this information, provide your most recent balance sheet. A balance sheet should list your business’ assets (real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, fixtures, inventory, etc) as well as the business’ debts (mortgage, car loan, equipment leases, etc).
- Gather 5 years of Profit and Loss statements. If your tax returns already include this information, provide your most recent Profit and Loss statement (either the most recent month or quarter). A Profit and Loss statements should list your business’ income (all money coming into the business) as well as the business’ expenses (utilities, rent, payroll, etc).
_____ Copies of all trusts in which a party has a beneficial interest.
If you are to receive anything from a trust, whether money or property or anything, you should make sure you have a copy of the trust documents. You also want to make sure you understand when you would be able to receive these items. Trust documents are often very specific as to when you can collect or receive a distribution from them. Having the trust documents is the best way to know when that event, distribution, or receipt of items will take place.
Checklist if you and the other person have minor children:
_____ Proof of medical, dental and vision insurance premiums paid by the party for any child listed or referenced in the petition.
Most health insurance premium information provides a family plan amount. However, it is important to determine how much is for your health insurance and how much is for the child(ren)’s health insurance.
- You can figure this out by calling your company’s Human Resources or Benefits department.
- You may also be able to figure this out through your company’s portal or health insurance information. If you know how much it costs for the employee rate for health insurance and you know how much it costs for the family plan for health insurance, you can subtract the employee rate from the family rate to determine how much the insurance is for the child(ren).
_____ Proof of payment of any expenses for private school or special schools for any minor children.
- You want to make sure you keep track of any educational expenses. This includes registration, the buy-out of volunteer hours, field trip expenses, and necessary expenses for electronics or other classroom/educational tools. Keep track of the invoice, email, or document provided showing the cost as well as the payment method used to pay.
- If there are uniforms for school, gym class, presentations, graduation, you want to keep track of those items and expenses. Keep track of the invoice, email, or document provided showing the cost as well as the payment method used to pay.
- If your child(ren) attend tutoring, therapy, or any additional required class, keep track of the cost and payment.
_____ Proof of payment of any expenses paid for the special needs of a gifted child or a child with a disability.
If you have a special needs child, the most important thing you need is a doctor’s diagnosis of the special need. This diagnosis is extremely important in determining for how long your child will be entitled to and/or requiring child support. Under Florida law, a special needs child’s support can extend beyond their 18th birthday, but the child must be diagnosed prior to their 18th birthday. Get the diagnosis in writing now and keep a copy of it.
- If there is any special therapy or treatment for the child, make sure you are keeping track of the cost, the provider of the therapy or treatment, and your method of payment.
- If you have a child with a disability, make sure you are keeping track of the cost, provider information, and method of payment for any physical therapy or medical devices.
- If you have a gifted child who has extra educational expenses outside the normal course of school work, make sure you are keeping track of the cost and method of payment for any electronics, coursebooks, or costs of any additional educational or therapy expenses.
_____ If parenting time is an issue, then the name and address of each treatment provider of any party for psychiatric or psychological issues, information regarding any orders of protection, and information on any Department of Child Safety investigations.
If your child is under the treatment of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or any other medical provider, compile a list of the doctor’s name, their contact information including address, phone, and or email, their specialty, the length of time treating the child, and a brief statement as to why they are treating the child.
- If you use insurance to pay for the medical provider, keep track of all of the copays, medication, and any other costs related to the care.
- If your child is subject to any court orders, whether criminal, civil, family law related, or a domestic violence/protection order, keep a copy of the order. More importantly, keep a copy of the order on you at all times. Make sure any education provider, childcare center, extracurricular activity location, and childcare provider has a copy also.
- If you and the other parent have had issues regarding the child and the Department of Children and Families, Child Protective Investigations, or other similar agency has opened an investigation, you should work diligently to obtain a copy of the report. Even if no allegations were found, the report may provide insight to your lawyer or anyone else handling your case.
Download our Checklist to assist you as you gather your documents. Feher Law provides advice, assistance, and representation for individuals going through divorce who would like to discuss their situation with an attorney and/or have an attorney with them to represent them throughout divorce. If you are considering divorce, or you want to explore your options, please contact Feher Law to schedule a consultation at 727-359-0367 or Kfeher@FeherLaw.com.