What paperwork should I gather if I am considering a divorce?


by Jeralyn Lawrence, Family Law Attorney, Lawrence Law

If you are considering a divorce in New Jersey, a wise starting point is to inventory your financial records and documents.

Here is a list of 14 records you should gather:

1. Social Security Earnings Statement. This is a snap shot of both parties’ respective income. The statement shows a clear picture of the earning history of each party.

2. Last five years of tax returns, and all W-2s, 1099s and K1s.

3. Current copies of all bank, brokerage, and stock account statements.

4. Employers Benefit Manual. The manual provides a detailed list of every benefit provided by an employer to an employee. Benefits include health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, 401(K), ESOPP, ESPP, pension information, and the like.

5. If a pension is involved, documents from the plan administrator detailing the nature of the pension, the benefits of same, the specifications, and a form Domestic Relations Order. the plan administrator requires to divide the pension.

6. Copies of any other defined benefit and defined contribution retirement account statements, (i.e., IRAs, 401K, 403(b)).

7. Copies of all the children’s savings accounts, 529 Plans, savings bonds, etc.

8. Documentation to prove the existence of any other asset.

9. Copies of credit card statements to show debt and charges. Year-end summaries are extremely helpful.

10. Inventory of any safe or safe deposit box. Make videos and photograph all items. This will safeguard any item you cannot bear to have disappear.

11. Inventory artwork, wine collections, furniture, furnishings, jewelry, sentimental property or other valuable collections. Again, make videos and photograph.

12. Your spouse’s health insurance policy. Obtaining and maintaining your own health insurance must be explored after the divorce.

13. Current mortgage and credit line statements. Confirm if your bank requires dual signatures before anyone can access your credit line. Close the line of credit if there is a concern that the other party will loot the line of credit and take the money.

14. Each party’s last three pay-stubs.

Proving Your Claim

If you claim something that is premarital or inherited, and is not subject to equitable distribution, you need to prove your case. Therefore, you will need to compile all documents necessary so show its immune status.

I always ask the client to provide me with a wish list and a statement as to where they want to be in a year after divorce to help me develop a strategy to achieve their goal.

As I review their list, the documents I need often change. I work with clients to identify, assert, and prove all claims so to successfully show what the client is entitled to in the divorce.

For more information about this blog or other divorce, matrimonial or family law issues contact me at moc.m1574188162rifwa1574188162lwal@1574188162ecner1574188162walj1574188162.


Jeralyn Lawrence is a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung. She also serves as Second Vice President of the New Jersey State Bar Association (slated to become President in 2022), is the Past Chair of the Family Law Section of the NJSBA, and serves as Second Vice-President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She can be reached at moc.m1574188162rifwa1574188162lwal@1574188162ecner1574188162walj1574188162 or (908) 645-1000.

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