Once you break the news of your desire to dissolve your marriage, interesting things may start happening at your house. Critical records and valuable items of personal property may suddenly vanish. It pays to be proactive, to ensure that you have all the information you will need to move forward as efficiently as possible.

The wasted time and cost associated with hunting down missing documentation can be staggering. We’ve handled cases where everything from an expensive diamond ring to boxes of business records have taken a bit a “vacation.” We almost always find them, but not without substantial effort. In cases where they are not found, the Court will impose substantial sanctions and assume the missing evidence is favorable to you.

To help avoid the mess, we’ve assembled a list of 12 things you should gather to ensure that you have all of critical information in hand before your spouse has a chance to conceal, transfer or sell items. These include obtaining:

  1. Copies of financial statements;
  2. Copies of tax returns;
  3. Copies of computer hard drives;
  4. Copies of insurance policies;
  5. Copies of wills and/or trusts;
  6. Inventory of safety deposit boxes, with a witness;
  7. Copies of deeds and/or titles to real property;
  8. Copies of small business ledgers, financial journals, payroll, sales tax returns and expense account records;
  9. Copies of appraisals for art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles;
  10. Record the contents of each room in your home through video;
  11. Copies of retirement account statements; and
  12. Copies of your spouse’s pay stubs for the last few months.

Investing some time in gathering these items will ensure that your spouse cannot take advantage of you during the divorce process. The denial of the existence of an asset is a fraud upon the Court. Once your spouse knows that we have all of the key information in hand, they are far less likely to engage in bad faith conduct and be honest in their disclosures throughout the process.