Before Separation or Confrontation
You must review a variety of documents with your attorney in order to evaluate your case, prepare yourself in advance of separation, prepare yourself to work toward a settlement, or prepare a suit for divorce. As a result, you must, at a minimum, obtain and retain the following documents in your possession:
- At least five years of state and federal income tax returns with all attachments. If possible all documents furnished to your accountant, or which you used to prepare the returns.
- Five years of all years of bank statements, investment account reports, credit card statements, and any document which identify money accumulated by either or both of the parties. Account information should also include funds which are being held for the benefit of minor children.
- Documentation of all expenses for the household, the family and the children. These documents often consist of Quicken files/printouts, canceled checks, check registers, bank statements, bills and receipts, credit card statements, etc.
- Copies of any and all correspondence exchanged between the parties or with their children or any other person which may contain information you believe may be important whether hand-written or by email.
- If there is a shared computer used by your spouse, an attempt should be made to completely copy the entire hard drive of that computer for lateruse or evaluation. However, information stored on a computer used by your spouse, should not be viewed (and in most cases not copied) unless you have had access to that information yourself.
- You should videotape the entire contents of the marital home including items in cabinets, closets, drawers, boxes, storage spaces, sheds, attics, basements, etcetera. You should have a witness present when the video is made. If a live witness is not available, or as an additional manner of verification, you may wish to videotape a television news program that gives the current date prior to and after the video taping session. It is not necessary to videotape such items as dishtowels, pots and pans.
- If you are inclined to remove belongings from the marital home you should catalog what is being removed and preferably have a witness present. Family members are poor choices for this purpose and should be avoided if at all possible. Do not under any circumstances select a witness who you are involved with, or may become involved with, in an adulterous relationship. In the event the parties have minor children, extreme caution should be exercised to determine which personal property to remove or leave behind. In custody/visitation cases, you need to always show that you acted in your children’s best interests. Therefore, serious deliberation should be made before taking particular property, a child’s bed, dresser, playthings, computer, clothing, etc.