Divorce is never an easy process and creates a great deal of anxiety over a person’s future physical, emotional and financial well-being. Many contemplating ending a marriage are also overwhelmed when thinking about the complexities of dividing marital property.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, but that doesn’t mean each spouse receives an equal share of those assets. One of the key elements for ensuring a fair distribution is to be organized on the front end.
Three crucial steps to take before a divorce
Taking the time to identify all of you and your spouse’s assets and debts can not only help you exert some control over the process but help relieve some of the stress. Here are three crucial actions to take:
Inventory all assets: Make a checklist of everything you and your spouse own, including assets and debts you acquired together, separately and even those items either of you held prior to the marriage. These documents include:
- Bank and investment account statements
- Personal financial statements and balance sheets
- Real estate deeds
- Retirement plans
- Mortgage and loan documents
- Business ownership papers
- Credit card statements
- Copies of wills and trusts
- Insurance policy documents
- List of all marital and nonmarital assets
This checklist should also include more than just financial documents. Presenting your attorney with items such as estate planning records, funeral arrangements, premarital agreements and long-term care insurance policies will help save time and money later on.
Organize these items: Another way to cut down on legal costs and expedite the process is to sort these records by each topic. For instance, keep all homeownership materials together, likewise for financial statements and so on. This is more efficient and helps you avoid leaving out a vital piece of information that could keep you from receiving your fair share.
Classify every asset: Once you’ve identified all sources of income and other property, it’s time to mark each as either marital property subject to division or separate assets. It’s not always easy, especially in the case of a family-owned business or receiving an inheritance. However, an experienced family law attorney understands New Jersey laws pertaining to equitable division and will help you determine which assets belong to one party or both.
Preparation is time well spent
Getting a handle on your financial situation before divorce proceedings begin typically pays dividends, both in setting you up for the best possible start to your new life and in easing the anxiety the process causes. Your lawyer will help demystify what can otherwise be an intimidating journey.