Preparing for the Divorce: What Documents Do I Need?

Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, P.C.
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Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, P.C.

Very often, one of the first few questions I am asked during an initial consultation with a prospective client is how should he or she “prepare” for the divorce?

Emotional preparation aside, I generally understand the question to mean what documents should he or she gather during the preliminary stages of the divorce process.

In the Fifth Judicial District of Iowa, there is a requirement to exchange financial information within a certain number of days after the filing of the Petition for dissolution of marriage. That financial information includes, generally, copies of tax returns for the past three (3) years and paystubs for the past six (6) months. This will enable us to determine the parties’ current incomes, which becomes necessary when calculating child support or alimony. The past three to five years’ worth of tax returns allow us to calculate income, particularly if a party’s annual income fluctuates wildly from year to year.

Because we are also required to exchange financial affidavits, many times I also request copies of any real estate documents, such as mortgage statements, valuations of any vehicles, and copies of any bank or investment or retirement accounts for the past six months to a year. This allows us to determine present values of the marital accounts before the divorce filing so that if money goes missing after the divorce filing, it will be easier to prove.

I also try to get a picture of the parties’ monthly expenses, particularly when alimony is going to be an issue, so I sometimes request copies of credit card statements.

If the client owns a business, I also ask for business tax returns and various financial statements that would enable a financial expert to estimate a valuation for the company.

Many times, the client may not have access to some or all of this information so after the Petition has been filed, there may be a need to make formal discovery requests or serve subpoenas in order to obtain the full slate of documents needed to litigate the case.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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