It’s common for people to contemplate getting a divorce before they actually decide to file divorce papers.  While deciding if it’s time to move on and file for divorce, it is important that you retain many important documents.  Like most situations, careful planning in anticipation of a divorce can prevent many problems and headaches further down the road, as well as cut down on time and expense for you and your attorney.

For example, most divorces require a division of assets and property.  In order to do this effectively, it is essential that your attorney, and the judge, are aware of the values of each of your assets and all of your property in order to more appropriately divide the estate.  Property division in Minnesota needs to be done “justly and equitably” and the only way to do that is to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

If you’re contemplating a divorce in the near future, you may want to begin assembling the following documents:  Tax returns for the past 5 years, pay stubs for the past 6 months, Kelley Blue Book motor vehicle values, and approximate value of your home or cabin/lake property (this may be tax assessed value, or a home appraisal, or websites such as offer approximate market values).  Also, the current balances in any/all retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, investment accounts, CD’s, checking and savings accounts, approximate value of stocks/bonds, social security statements, and any/all debt, including approximate balance of mortgages, motor vehicle loans, or student loan and credit card debt.  It is also a good idea to obtain a credit report prior to starting a divorce proceeding as this is the most effective way of knowing the extent of any joint debt as well as individual debt.

In addition, it is also important to know whether you or your spouse has life insurance, who the beneficiary is, and how much the policy is worth.  Also, if you don’t already know, try to find out who your health insurance is through, and how much premium you pay per month.  If you have children, it is also helpful to find out how much it costs to for their health insurance, in addition to your own.  If your health insurance is being provided through your spouse, it is also a good idea to find out the cost of individual private health insurance once you are divorced.

Lastly, don’t forget to calculate your average monthly expenses.  This includes everything from mortgage/rent, utilities, car payments, insurance payments, gas, groceries, debt payments, and payments towards savings  or retirement accounts.  If you have children, be sure to include their expenses.

Preparation for a divorce proceeding is not just confined to financial information.  If your case involves custody or parenting time issues, it may be a good idea to start thinking about what would be in the best interests of your children.  How much time should the children spend with you?  the other parent?  Why?  Who was or is the primary caregiver for the children?  Do the children have a significant relationship with someone else (example, grandparents, etc)?  Are the children attached to the home?  Could you afford to stay in the home once the divorce is finalized?

All of this information should be extremely helpful for you and your attorney once you meet for an initial consultation with a divorce attorney.  While some of the information may need to be updated, it will give you the opportunity to obtain more meaningful advice and direction from an attorney before a divorce proceeding is commenced.

It is not unusual for some spouses not to have access to financial information.  In that case, the attorney can obtain the information from the other spouse or his/her attorney through either informal discovery or formal discovery.

Planning a divorce is emotional, but a lot of the stress can be reduced by planning ahead and organizing your information before things get overwhelming.  Consult our Minnesota Divorce Attorneys today if you would like a free consultation.

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