Divorce Frustration can be avoided by gathering information quickly. Known by different names in different countries, a significant cost in a divorce is the discovery, or pre-trial process. This means collecting the information needed to support your case, whatever it might be. Whether you are claiming marital assets or protecting assets.
I recommend that as soon as you know that you are going to see a lawyer, photocopy everything that you can get your hands on at home.
- Tax returns – you and your former partner’s,
- Pay stubs,
- Share certificates or statements,
- Bank statements,
- Foreign currency, large quantities of cash – if you have any in the house,
- Government-issued photo identification, or
- Anything that’s financially relevant.
What does financially relevant mean? If it has any monetary value or if the document has a dollar sign on it. More examples include:
- Invoices, bills,
- Including gas,
- Cell phone,
- Insurance (car, house, boat, life),
- Internet and cable charges,
- School fees, and
- Professional membership documents.
- Any deed documents,
- Mortgage papers,
- Car ownership papers,
- Debt or loan documents,
- Credit card statements,
- Partnership agreements, and
- Employment contracts.
Even travel documents (tickets, hotel vouchers) could be useful. For example, if significant costs were incurred, this may come up later in a court case.
Mortgage Papers, Your Biggest Asset.
Your mortgage is the most significant asset you can have. Amazingly, mortgage documents and deeds are often lost. People assume that the bank keeps copies of important papers and when they need them they can ask for copies. However, I know of one particular case where the mortgage was issued by one bank, which sold its loan portfolio to another bank.
The couple needed to get copies of the original loan agreement but alas, since the bank had archived the papers and also changed ownership, several of the originating documents were unavailable.
Banks go through huge amounts of paperwork so it’s your responsibility to make copies of everything.
Safe Document Storage, Avoid Frustrating Missing Information.
Don’t keep all of your documents in one place. What can happen during divorce is that you could decide you are going to move out. You are uncomfortable living with your former partner, so you and your ‘things’ will be moving to a new home.
And when you move from point A to point B, documents get lost. If you can, get some personal storage or a sympathetic friend or family member to help you store some things. I personally recommend personal storage. That way, you don’t owe anyone any favors and you are the only one with access. When you need some of your documents, you can readily retrieve them without having to forage through moving boxes.
Remember, I said earlier that time is of the essence during a case. You do not want to become a bottleneck with the lawyer repeatedly calling you to ask when certain missing documents that you promised are going to arrive. One phone call from the lawyer will easily equal the cost for one month’s self-storage locker.
Also, if you are trying to save money, some self-storage businesses will offer you the first month free. So it’s worth calling around.
If you’re looking for cheap boxes and want to save some money, I have found that online auctions are a great way to locate cheap moving materials and boxes. The boxes provided are clean, new and are often over-runs.
Another good reason for keeping copies of significant records offsite is that there have been cases where one partner has gone into the other partner’s documents and removed copies, knowing that they were removing supporting evidence that could have been used to help argue the transfer of assets.
Put these documents somewhere where they are not readily visible. You want to make sure that they are kept safe. You know that your lawyer may ask you for these documents. You do not want to waste time looking for documents that are lost or missing.