Whether you are contemplating filing for divorce or you have just been served with divorce papers, you should do some preparation before you hire an attorney or file anything with the court. The items listed below may not be all of the documents you need during the divorce process. Additionally, many of the following items may not be applicable to you, but it is important to compile and organize as much as you can. The clearer the picture, the more effective you and/or your attorney will be.
Often, one spouse in the marriage assumes the role of record keeper/accountant. If you do not have access to any of these documents, they may become available through your spouse’s filings or during the divorce process through discovery requests.
Generally, you should gather:
Additionally, you should prepare documents for each major area of divorce litigation. There are four major areas addressed in a typical divorce: (1) Equitable Distribution; (2) Spousal Support; (3) Child Support; and (4) Child Custody.
Equitable distribution is how property is distributed between the parties. Virtually all of the property accumulated during the marriage is subject to equitable distribution, with some exceptions. Therefore, you will need to account for the assets and debts accumulated during the marriage. Assets include real property, retirement accounts, and valuable personal property. Debts include credit card debt, mortgages, student debt, etc.
If you or your spouse own a business, you should compile tax documents from the business.
Again, if you do not have access to any of these documents, don’t worry! They may become available through your spouse’s filings or during the divorce process through discovery requests.
The court’s main goal in establishing spousal support is equity and fairness. Alimony is not appropriate in every marriage. In New Jersey, the court will weigh a number of factors in establishing whether alimony is appropriate and, if so, what amount is proper. Some of the factors include the length of the marriage, the income of the parties, each party’s age and ability to work, etc. In establishing an alimony award, it is essential that the court receive a full picture of the parties’ incomes. That means that tax documents including W-2’s, 1099’s, and documentation showing supplemental income from rental properties or dividend payments are important.
Child support in New Jersey is calculated through a formula established by state statute. In order to calculate an appropriate amount of child support, you will need to present information including:
There are two forms of custody: Legal Custody and Physical Custody. Legal custody allows parents to participate in major decisions for the child including school, religion, medical decisions, etc.
Physical custody is where the child physically resides. In many cases, the child resides with one parent for a majority of the time and the other parent is usually afforded parenting time. It is helpful to keep track of the parenting time exercised during separation or during the divorce process in order to establish a parenting time schedule.
When parents cannot agree on parenting time or if there is some reason that custody or parenting time should be limited, you must prepare evidence to prove the limitation is in the best interest of the child. This evidence can include police reports, treatment records, photos, videos, written correspondence between the parties, etc.
Again, if you cannot find or do not have access to any of this information, it may become available during the discovery process during your divorce.
It is important to remember that even the simplest marriage can end in a complicated divorce. Divorce is a give-and-take process that can be difficult and emotional. However, with the right preparation, you can save your self a lot of frustration.
Once you have compiled all of your documentation, it will likely be beneficial to speak to an attorney. If you are contemplating a divorce or have just been served with divorce papers, visit hunnelllaw.com/contact to schedule a strategy session with an attorney at The Hunnell Law Group.
By Caitlin Holland, Esq.