10 Documents you need if you are getting divorced in 2023
Almost every new client that comes to our office to consult about divorce has the same questions:
How much child support will I get?
How much child support will I have to pay?
Will there be alimony? If so, how much will it be?
What will happen to our house? Can I keep the house?
What kind of asset division or property settlement will I get?
Does retirement get divided? How does that work?
How will our debts be paid or divided?
For your divorce lawyer to be able to give you well-informed answers to these questions, you will need to know the basic information about your family’s financial picture.
At Herlihy Family Law, we have all of our potential clients complete a Client Information Sheet that asks for this information so that we can give you the best advice possible and make the best use of your time and money in your consultation.
Of course, we understand that it is not always possible for you to obtain this information if your spouse controls all the finances, for instance, but gather as much information as you can.
If you do not have the documents, you can always request copies of anything that your name is on directly from the financial institution or other business entity.
Here is a list of Herlihy Family Law’s recommendations for the top 10 Documents you need to prepare for your divorce in Mobile, Alabama:
1. Tax Returns
Try to obtain copies of the last three years of income tax returns. Sometimes, income can fluctuate, so if you have three years of tax returns, that can give you a good estimation of what average income looks like.
If there is a family business or rental property involved, you need to get copies of both personal and business or corporation tax returns. You will want complete copies, including every page of the tax return itself, plus any required attached documents which reflect income, such as W-2s, 1099s, and K-1s.
If you do not have copies, you can always ask for copies from your accountant or tax preparer, or directly from the Internal Revenue Service.
2. Pay Stubs
A year-to-date pay stub for both yourself and your spouse can be used to calculate child support. Often, one parent will cover the minor children’s health insurance through their employer, so the cost of health insurance will be reflected on the pay stub. The out-of-pocket health insurance cost is factored into child support.
Pay stubs can also be helpful to reveal information about other deductions, such as an employer-sponsored retirement plan or life insurance.
3. Financial Account Statements
If possible, you want to have copies of at least the last 12 months of statements for all financial accounts. Twelve months is recommended so you can assess if any monies have been moved or liquidated in anticipation of the divorce, or if any accounts have significantly changed in value.
If you cannot get twelve months, attempt to obtain at least the most recent statement for every account so you know what your monetary assets are right now.
Even if your spouse normally gets the statements or has online login access, you can obtain copies directly from the financial institution of any account that your name is on.
Examples of the types of accounts you want statements for would include: checking accounts, savings accounts, business bank accounts, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, IRAs, 401Ks, pensions, mutual funds, investment accounts, etc.
4. Statements for Credit Cards or other Debts
You will want copies of statements for all credit cards or other debts. Just like with financial accounts, try to get twelve months of statements. If that is not possible, you will want at least the most recent statements for all debts so you know what you owe.
Credit card statements, in particular, can be a wealth of information about the other party’s spending habits and behavior.
Examples of the types of debts would include credit cards, mortgages on real estate, vehicle or boat loans, personal loans, home equity lines of credit, promissory notes, etc.
5. List of household goods and furnishings
When you get divorced, you will need to divide up all of your household goods, furnishings, and other personal property. Go room by room and make a list of all the items. If you have items located at multiple places, such as a family business or vacation property, make sure to note where the items are located. Taking photographs can be helpful as well.
6. Identification Documents for yourself and your children
You will want to obtain the originals, or at least copies, of all identification documents for yourself and your children, such as birth certificates, passports, social security cards, driver’s licenses, or other photo IDs.
Immunization records are also required for school enrollment, so you will want copies of those as well.
7. Copies of regular recurring monthly bills
When you get divorced, you often need to figure out your monthly living expenses, as that is relevant to issues such as alimony. Sometimes, it is hard to figure these out without copies of the bills.
Gather copies of your regular bills for the past 6-12 months so you can determine your average monthly expenses.
Examples would include the items listed above plus power bills, water bills, cable/internet bills, invoices related to your children’s school and extracurricular expenses, grocery and gas receipts, and medical and dental bills which are not covered by health insurance.
8. Cellphone bills
If you are on a family cellphone plan, you can request itemized cellphone bills for all the phones on the plan. The bills will reveal both incoming and outgoing phone calls and text message activity.
It will not reveal the contents of text messages, unfortunately, but knowing who your spouse is communicating with and when can be very valuable information in a divorce.
We have even had a client whose spouse bought another unknown person a $1000 cellphone on the family plan, and the client did not even know it until they obtained a copy of the itemized bill!
9. Relevant evidence in your case
Any items you have access to can be relevant evidence in your case. This could include items on your own cellphone, such as text messages with your spouse, photographs, or video and audio recordings. It could also include video footage from your home security cameras, or mail, receipts, or other paperwork you have found in your house.
Remember though, if you bombard your lawyer and their staff with thousands of text messages, it will make your legal fees go up as the team has to spend time reviewing everything you provide. When you gather evidence, keep in mind what you are trying to prove or show.
A text message between you and your spouse that says “Please pick up our daughter’s birthday cake,” and they reply “OK,” does not really prove anything. If your spouse texts you, “I am really sorry I cheated on you and I promise I will never do it again” — that could be important to your case.
10. Your calendar or log of significant events
A divorce case in Mobile, Alabama can take a year to get to trial sometimes. Unlike other types of legal cases, the parties to a divorce are often frequently interacting with each other throughout the pendency of their case; therefore, they can almost constantly create new evidence through these interactions.
There can be ongoing new developments that affect your case – someone gets arrested, someone files bankruptcy, someone goes to the hospital, etc.
It can be impossible to remember everything that has occurred over what is probably the most stressful year of your life, so it is a very good idea to keep a log or calendar to note down any significant events that occur leading up to your divorce being filed and while your divorce case is pending.
If you spend some time and effort really getting organized, you will feel much more prepared, informed, and confident going into your divorce. Knowledge is power! These ten items are a great place to start.
Author: Alison Herlihy
Family law attorney Alison Herlihy is a native of Mobile, Alabama. Alison has engaged in the private practice of family law since 2005, focusing primarily on domestic relations, divorce and child support, child custody law, adoption law, juvenile, probate practice, and wills.
Alison Baxter Herlihy earned the prestigious AV Preeminent peer review rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which recognizes attorneys for the highest levels of legal ability and professional ethical standards. Alison is a certified Guardian Ad Litem. In 2015, Alison became a Registered Mediator on the Alabama State Court Mediator Roster, in both general and domestic relations mediation.