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Helping You Prepare for a California Divorce

As if going through a divorce isn't emotionally traumatizing enough, the disruption it can cause to your social and professional life can be significant. This is especially true when complying with the comprehensive disclosures and document requests required of every divorcing person in California. California Family Code Section 2104 requires that you and your spouse trade detailed information about your assets, debts, income, and expenses. This is typically done when filling out a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. All of the gathering and reporting of your financial data can feel pretty intrusive. However, the reason for having to gather and provide it to your spouse is pretty simple: the law says you have to do it. If you have a fairly simple and small community estate, this process is pretty straight forward. However, things can become complicated quickly if you own significant assets, have significant debt, or own a personal business. 

Not only must a divorcing litigant declare all their assets and debts, they are also subject to the typical discovery mechanisms used by every California divorce lawyer. The most common are interrogatories and requests for production of documents, or better yet, depositions with related document requests. I have rarely met a client who is adequately organized and prepared for the massive information requests (interrogatories), disclosures and document requests which come raining down from the other side when litigating a California divorce. 

Being Prepared Can Save You Time & Money

Working professionals, especially those owning their own businesses, can suffer significant financial losses caused by the significant time and attention spent away from work while distracted by voluminous document requests. Few people are organized to the degree necessary to respond to discovery requests in a streamlined stress-free process. Responding to discovery is also a significant financial drain because it is often your attorney who is left to gather, assemble and prepare responsive documents. This is so much true, that voluminous document requests are often a litigation tactic used by the opposing side to force an early, often unfair settlement agreement.

If you are contemplating divorce or are anticipating your spouse filing, the number one recommendation I can make is to put your financial house in order and get organized! Being prepared will save you money (attorney fees), time, and better secure an equal division of your community estate. 

Your Financial Information Checklist

The following is a comprehensive checklist of the financial information that you will need when preparing for a California divorce. I say this, because it is almost word for word, a typical document production request used in a litigated Claifornia divorce. To most of us, many of the requests found below won’t apply. However, it is important that you review the list in its entirety to understand and appreciate the wealth of financial information you will be required to provide in your California divorce case.

1. Income Tax Returns. Completed personal, corporate, partnership, joint venture, or other income tax returns (federal, state and local), including W-2, 1099, and K-1 forms, in your possession or control for the last 5 years, including all amended tax returns. Any documents which represents an anticipated tax refund.

2. Business Financial Statements. Net worth statements, such as balance sheet or list of assets and liabilities; Income statements, such as cash flow or income and expense statements.

3. Income Information. Current income information, including payroll stubs and all other evidence of income (investment property, rental/lease agreements, dividends, interest, royalties, lottery winnings, etc.) since the filing of your last tax return.

4. Personal Property Tax Returns filed in this state or anywhere else from the start of the marriage.

5. Banking Information. All monthly bank statements, passbooks, check registers, deposit slips, canceled checks, and bank charge notices on personal and business accounts, certificates of deposit, and money market and retirement accounts from banks, savings and loan institutions, credit unions, or other institutions in which you or your spouse has an interest.

6. Financial Statements submitted to banks, lending institutions, or any other persons or entities, which were prepared by you or your spouse at any time during the last five (5) years.

7. Any Loan Applications made within the last five (5) years.

8. Brokerage Statements. Statements from all accounts of securities and/or commodities dealers or mutual funds maintained by you or your spouse during the marriage, and held individually, jointly, or as a trustee or guardian.

9. Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds. Certificates, if available, of accounts owned by either spouse during the marriage or pre-owned by you.

10. Stock Options. All records pertaining to stock options held in any corporation or other entity, exercised or not exercised (include any restricted stock).

11. Pension, Money Purchase Plans, Profit Sharing, Employee Stock Option Plans, Deferred Compensation Agreement, and Retirement Plans (401K, 403B, 412(e)(3), 457, military, IRA, Roth IRA, SEP-IRA, Keogh) or any other kind of plan owned by you or by any corporation in which you and/or your spouse have been a participant during the marriage, including annual statements.

12. Wills and Trust Agreements (include any Powers of Attorney, etc.) executed by you or in which you have a present or contingent interest or in which you are a beneficiary, trustee, executor, or guardian and from which benefits have been received, are being received, or will be received and which are or were in existence during the past five (5) years, including inter vivos trusts. All records of declaration of trust and minute books for all trusts to which you are a party, including the certificates, if any, showing such interest and copies of all statements, receipts, disbursements, investments, and other transactions.

13. Life Insurance or certificate of life insurance policies now in existence, insuring your life or the life of your spouse, and statements of the cash value, if available.

14. General Insurance. Copies of insurance policies, including, but not limited to, annuities, health, accident, disability, casualty, motor vehicles of any kind, property liability, including contents, and insurance owned by the parties during the past five (5) years of the marriage.

15. Outstanding Debts. Documents reflecting all debts owed to you or by you (including those cosigned by you), secured or unsecured, including mortgages, personal loans, credit card statements, promissory notes and lawsuits pending or previously filed in any court.

16. Business Records or ledgers in your possession and control that are either personal or business-related, together with all accounts and journals.

17. Real Property. Any deeds of property in which you and/or your spouse have an interest, together with evidence of all contributions, in cash or otherwise, made by you or on your behalf, toward the acquisition of such real estate during the marriage. Include all purchase agreements, mortgages, notes, property tax statements, rental/lease agreements, appraisals and all expenses associated with each property.

18. List of real property owned prior to your marriage as well as real property acquired during the marriage by gift and/or inheritance.

19. Sale and Option Agreements on any real estate owned by you either individually, through another person or entity, jointly, or as trustee or guardian.

20. Personal Property. Documents, invoices, contracts, insurance policies, and appraisals on all personal property, including furniture, fixtures, jewelry, artwork, furnishings, furs, equipment, antiques, and any type of collections (coin, stamps, gold, etc.), owned by you individually, jointly, as trustee or guardian, or through any other person or entity during the term of the marriage.

21. List of personal property owned prior to your marriage as well as personal property acquired during the marriage by gift and/or inheritance.

22. Motor Vehicles. All financing agreements and titles to all motor vehicles owned by you, individually or jointly, at any time during the last five (5) years, including airplanes, boats, automobiles, or any other types of motor vehicles.

23. Corporate Interests. All records showing any kind of personal interest in any corporation (foreign or domestic) or any other entities not evidenced by certificate or other instrument.

24. Partnership and Joint Venture Agreements to which you have been a party during the marriage.

25. Employment Records during the term of the marriage, showing evidence of wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, raises, promotions, expense accounts, and other benefits or deductions of any kind whether in cash, stock and/or other property. All records showing any fringe benefits available to you or your spouse from any business entity including, without limitation, auto, travel, private aircraft, boat, apartment/home, entertainment, country club, health club/spa, educational, vacation pay, severance pay, personal living expenses, etc.

26. Employment contracts under which you or your spouse have performed services during the past five (5) years, including a list of description of any oral contracts.

27. Charge Account statements for the past five (5) years.

28. Membership cards or documents identifying participation rights in any country clubs, health clubs/spas, key clubs, private clubs, associations, or fraternal group organizations during the past five (5) years of the marriage, together with all monthly statements.

29. Judgments and pleadings in which you have been a party to, either as Plaintiff or Defendant, during the marriage, including any Personal Injury Awards.

30. Appraisals of any asset owned by you for the past five (5) years.

31. Safe Deposit Boxes. Include a list of its contents.

32. Mileage/travel awards. Provide statements of all awards both granted and used and any dates of expiration.

33. Anything else that you think may be an asset.

If you aren’t exhausted or scared after reading the above list, you should be. The disclosure requirements in a California divorce are all-inclusive, comprehensive and exhaustive. You would be surprised to know how many attorney and legal staff hours are spent putting together your financial disclosure documents in order to comply with these requests. The more you can do yourself, in advance, the better, and the more money you will save in the process.

Contact Us Today.

For a free initial consultation with the Law Office of Channe G. Coles, call (805) 617-4618 or send us an email. From our law office in downtown Santa Barbara, California, we serve clients throughout the County, including Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta, Lompoc, Solvang and Santa Maria.

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