For anyone who is going through a divorce, the word Discovery can make you cringe and stress out. The thought that you have to find, download and organize potentially hundreds of financial documents for your attorney to review and shape your financial story. Discovery, particularly the gathering of all financial related documents, is a critical phase in the divorce process because it forms the basis for negotiations and ultimately the outcomes of a financial settlement, home ownership, future savings and retirements, and debts to be paid.
I recently worked with several clients to collect, organize and produce their Discovery documents and wanted to offer this quick overview of some of the most common categories you will be asked to produce and a few helpful Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind when pulling all your financial data together.
Bank statements: Last three years’ worth of financial statements from your bank/s.
Retirement accounts: Most recent statements for all 401(k), IRA, Roth IRA and/or other retirement accounts.
Investment accounts: Most recent statements for all investment accounts.
Tax returns: Last five years of tax returns.
Credit card statements: Three years’ worth of credit card statements in addition to information about your current balances - Be sure to include credit cards in your name and those that are jointly shared with your spouse.
Real estate: Most recent mortgage statements and home equity lines of credit for each home owned - Include documentation for any property that does not have a mortgage.
Insurance policies: Most recently house, car and life insurance policies - Note: Some life insurance policies have a cash value that may be included as an asset during the financial negotiations of the divorce.
Discovery Data Collection Do’s & Don’ts
Know your attorney’s document request dates and comply.
Ignore requests for documentation because you simply don’t feel like researching the information.
If you don’t already have electronic access to your financial accounts, consider setting up access.
Don’t leave this to the last minute. Some financial institutions only have 18 months of information online. Often you can request older information, but it may take a few days.
Give yourself 3-4 weeks to collect the documents.
Pace yourself. Collect 1-2 categories of data collection at a time. Gathering the data takes time and mental energy.
Try researching and downloading electronic statements and records the week of your deadline.
Set up electronic files for each category of documents requested.
If multiple years, set up sub folders for each year.
If you only have paper copies, scan and upload so all documents can be submitted electronically.
Submit one electronic folder with all financial documents dumped into it. You will create more work for your attorneys and their assistants which results in more fees.
Avoid additional stress and include everything requested. In the end you will save on attorney fees associated with filling in gaps of missing information.
Don’t duplicate documents.
Struggling with your data gathering process and need a trusted resource to ensure it completed correctly and on time, reach out to Post Divorce Force. Let us help you and your attorney get it all done with peace of mind.