Organize Your Finances for a Simpler Divorce
Even amicable divorces can run into unexpected snags, commonly over financial issues. Among the major tasks in any divorce is determining what property is part of the marital estate and assessing its value. Sometimes disputes are unavoidable, but there are things you can do to help smooth the process at the onset.
Discovery of assets and financial records in divorce proceedings is an expensive, time-consuming process. For that reason, gathering as much documentation as possible before you or your spouse leave the marital home can be a big time saver, especially if you don’t pay all the bills or handle all of your investments and you don’t have a clear picture of your finances.
Arizona is a community property state, which means that property acquired during the marriage is divided more or less equally. But not everything in the marital home or in a bank account is necessarily part of the marital estate. Your lawyer must categorize and evaluate each of the assets in devising a distribution plan. When you do the work of organizing your information rather than handing over a pile of documents, your lawyer can spend fewer billable hours on document review and more time focusing on other aspects of your case.
Especially if your spouse has traditionally handled the family finances, you should locate and review statements for all bank accounts and other investments, such as pensions, 401Ks, IRAs and brokerage accounts. Even if you can’t access a particular statement, make a note of the financial institution so that your lawyer can request (or subpoena, if necessary) the account information later.
Once you have collected everything you can, make a list of every account. Start a spreadsheet and enter balances and any notes, especially if you cannot find statements and think your spouse has an account at a particular bank or brokerage firm. Add to the list real estate or major assets that you and/or your spouse own, including cars, computers and other valuables.
Now that you have your assets documented, think about your family’s debt and major expenses. This might include student loans, credit card balances, car loans, mortgage statements, outstanding bills and any other debts. Just as with property, your attorney must determine which debts are marital in nature and so must be divided. As you go through credit card and bank statements, make a note of expenses, including your mortgage, groceries, tuition, car payments and other regular costs of maintaining your family’s lifestyle. Again, this will help cut down on billable attorney hours.
Divorce can be complicated, but anything you can do to simplify the process helps make it less stressful. If you are contemplating divorce and have questions about how it will affect your property interests, contact Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. for a free consultation at our Scottsdale office. You can reach us by phone at 602-789-3497 or contact us online.