Michael Sherman in The Alabama Family Law Blog started an excellent series of articles (seven so far) on preparing for divorce.
Preparation is essential. Since one of the primary purposes of divorce is to divide the marital assets, you should be knowledgeable about your and your spouse’s income, assets and debts.
If you are in the dark about your family finances, a good place to start is by reviewing your income tax returns, check stubs and credit card statements. After you have retained competent counsel, you should provide him/her with copies of your relevant documents.
Look about your home- do you own or rent? Do you own art, antiques, jewelry or collectibles? How were they acquired? Did you or your spouse purchase them or were they a gift? When were they acquired - before or during the marriage?
Are you and your spouse self supporting? Will you or your spouse require maintenance? What will your post divorce lifestyle be like? You will need to make a budget to determine your financial needs after divorce.
Do not be discouraged if you cannot make this assessment because documents are missing or you do not understand complex financial statements. Missing documents can all be “discovered” during the divorce. Experts – lawyers, accountants, appraisers and financial planners- can be retained to make sense of the family finances.
By preparing, you are yourself and your counsel with the tools necessary to protect and assert your legal rights.