It seems unfair. At a time in your life when you are probably least capable of concentrating on paperwork and dry legal documents, your attorney or your soon-to-be-ex’s attorney is demanding yet another proof of something-or-other. How are you supposed to get this stuff together when the rest of your life is about dividing things apart?
Documents required for a divorce range from your marriage license to tax returns and documentation of everything you own together: mortgages, deeds, car titles, insurance policies, checking account records, other bank records and retirement plans…and this is a partial list. Ask your attorney for the checklist used by his or her practice or find a generic list of required documents on the Internet and start there.
The Importance of Organization
Without some planned organization, you are going to be overwhelmed very quickly with the amount of paperwork you receive from your attorney, not to mention those requests from your spouse’s attorney to fill out information forms or submit documents. All of the aspects of organization give you a better sense of your case, greater familiarity with the documents and contribute a more credible testimony in court if it comes to that.
There are three major reasons not to let this amount of paperwork and information overwhelm you. First, organization of these records gives you a psychological advantage: you feel more like you have some control over the situation and less at the mercy of the process. Second, yes you can just dump everything into a cardboard box and drop it off at your lawyer’s office, but someone is going to organize it and do you really want to pay the hourly paralegal charges to do so? Finally, being organized can lead to a greater or more equitable share of the marital assets.
Gaining Control of Documents
Divorce attorneys, therapists, counselors and anyone who’s been through the process all recommend that you get and stay organized throughout the process. Whether you use an online file sharing service, an accordion file, a file cabinet, folders, or one of those large binders, start labeling and sorting and organizing.
Many of the documents you’ll need must be officially notarized copies. Some suggest that you keep two copies of everything: one organized where you can find it and a second unfiled, in a nearby but-not too-nearby plastic bin. I’d suggest a paper copy to visually review your organization and a scan, store and file-share program to keep copies for yourself or your attorney’s office.
If you are going through a divorce (or foresee one in your not-so-distant future), remember that organization is the key to a smooth, relatively problem-free process. By making an effort to properly organize your necessary paperwork and convey the information accurately to all parties involved, you can make what is usually a painful, heartwrenching time of life into something manageable. When you also consider that technological advances such as file sharing and email make it to where you don’t have to see your soon-to-be ex in order to convey necessary information, you will soon come to see this as a win-win situation.
Author Bio: Felicia Baratz is a freelance writer and graphic designer living in Indianapolis, IN. As a contributor to eatbreatheblog.com, she touches on green innovations and practices like green moving and transportation.