Preparing for Financial Separation and Divorce in Massachusetts
Before you go to the Courthouse to file for your Divorce or have your lawyer file for your divorce, you should educate yourself about your family finances.
Whether you handle the family finances, share the handling of the family finances, or you have either left all of that to your spouse or you have allowed them to control all the family finances, you need to familiarize yourself with your family’s debts and assets, to update your job skills and build up your individual credit.
At least you should know:
- How much money comes into the house each month and how much is spent.
- Who does the family owe money to, the terms of every debt, and the total amount due of every debt. (Keep in mind that just because the bill is in your spouse’s sole name the court may consider it marital if it was incurred for expenses of your family.)
- You should prepare a monthly budget to determine your monthly living expenses.
- How much money is in your checking, savings, investment, and retirement accounts.
In order for you to determine, or for your attorney to determine what is a fair and equitable division of your marital estate, you need to obtain and refer to a variety of your family’s legal and financial documents, in addition to checking and savings account statements and credit card statements. The relevant documents may include:
- Copies of your tax returns for the last 3 years. (If you do not have access to your returns, you may obtain a copy directly from the Internal Revenue Service. You need to complete and mail IRS Form 4506 along with a $50.00 fee to the IRS office listed on the form. IRS Forms are available at https://www.irs.gov/forms-instructions. For more information got to https://www.irs.gov.)
- Real Estate tax bills. In addition to the amount of real estate taxes, these will indicate how the property is titled and the assessed value of the property.
- Copies of all life insurance policies. Life insurance policies privately purchased or from employment where you or your spouse are listed as owner or beneficiary.
- Account Statements. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment account statements and retirement account statements including Individual Retirement Account (IRA), retirement accounts from employment including 401(k), 403(b), and pension statements.
- Credit card statements. Copies of all credit card statements for the last three years.
- Mortgage and HELOC statements. Copies of current statements for all mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) along with the location of any HELOC related checkbook.
- Financial Statements. Copies of any financial statements prepared when you or your spouse applied for a loan or mortgage.
- Loan documents and statements. Copies of documentation of notes and statements for any personal loans, car loans, boat loans, student loans, business loans or any unsecured loan for which you or your spouse are obligated, including family loans.
- Business documents. If you or your spouse own a business, copies of profit and loss, income and balance sheet statements or QuickBooks files of the businesses and partnership agreements or articles of incorporation.
- Prenuptial agreements. If you have signed a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement, a copy of the agreement including any schedules, exhibits or financial statements.
Whether you represent yourself or have an attorney, this information will help you to determine a fair and equitable settlement, or if unable to come to a resolution by negotiation, you will need to provide this information to your judge at trial. You can greatly reduce your attorneys’ fees, if you provide your attorney with the necessary information without incurring the expense of costly legal discovery. Take the time to be prepared for separating or divorce. Full financial disclosure will enable you to obtain a fair and equitable result.