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Litigation. Collaborative Law. Mediation.

Protect Yourself by Using a Divorce Checklist


Knowing where to begin when you finally decide to seek a divorce can be daunting. Each party has different issues he or she is concerned about. Maybe you have been the breadwinner and you are worried about how much you stand to lose. Maybe you have been a stay-at-home parent or spouse in charge of running the household and have valid concerns over your lack of career options.

Litigating your divorce can become extremely complicated very quickly. No matter your role in the marriage, sitting down and methodically organizing your concerns can be a good way to begin protecting yourself. It can also help both you and your attorney gain a quicker understanding of the issues to begin working on.

(1)  Property division

The first step is to identify and make a list of all of your assets. This includes assets that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage as well as any assets that you or your spouse maintain from prior to the marriage.

Financial documents

Gather your financial data for the last 3 to 5 years. If you believe documentation pertaining to a financial issue being raised goes further back, your attorney will advise you of a more specific date range. Information to pull includes:

  • Tax returns (federal and each state filed).
  • Bank statements for each joint and individual account at every financial institution.
  • Investment account statements (including all retirement accounts).
  • Bank statements for accounts held by children.
  • Stock or Certificate of Deposit records.
  • Employment records.
  • Social security statements.
  • Trust agreements.
  • Powers of attorney.
  • Prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Deeds and mortgages with respect to all real estate held jointly or individually.
  • Appraisals of all valuables such as jewelry or artwork.
  • List of vehicles, including automobiles, boats, motorcycles, etc.
  • List of furniture and home furnishings of value.
  • List of valuable clothing such as fur coats or designer collections.

Asset information

When making your list of assets, it can be helpful to designate any items that were gifts from your spouse or other individuals, or is property that you had from prior to the marriage. It is possible that these items could be considered your separate property under New York law and therefore immune from property division.

(2)  Children

Issues of child custody and child support are frequently hot-button topics. Courts consider what is in the best interest of the child when making these decisions, so it is incumbent upon you to gather proof of your role in raising your children. Create a list that includes:

  • Time spent with your children by each parent.
  • Daily care activities performed by each parent.
  • Health issues or work constraints that may hinder either parent’s ability to care for the children.
  • Substance abuse or physical abuse concerns regarding the other parent.
  • Routine expenses, including private school tuition, tutoring, childcare, health care, extracurricular activities, clothing, and food.
  • Financial planning for your children’s future education.

(3)  Additional documents to gather

There will be miscellaneous documentation that will help your attorney advocate for you to obtain the best outcome. Certain information may be able to be leveraged to put you into a better negotiating position. For example:

  • Private investigator reports.
  • Police reports.
  • Medical records related to mental health or irrational behavior.

(4)  Things to keep in mind after your case concludes

Once your case is over, estate planning documents should be updated quickly to remove your former spouse’s name. Divorce does not automatically negate your former spouse’s legal authority to act on your behalf or financially benefit from your estate. Additionally, all powers of attorney should be changed to remove your former spouse’s authority to step into your shoes to act in your place, if that level of trust no longer exists.

Unless assets have otherwise been specifically addressed or disposed of during the divorce process, change the beneficiary to any life insurance policies, retirement plans or other assets.

When divorce is on the horizon, one or both spouses may begin to prepare for the inevitable. The NYC divorce attorneys of Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP provide invaluable knowledge to our clients in all areas of matrimonial and family law. Our goal is to help clients obtain successful case results on the issues most important to them.

To schedule a consultation with one of our professional and discreet attorneys, call (212) 466-6015 or reach out to us through our contact form today. We proudly serve clients throughout New York City, Westchester, and Hackensack, New Jersey.