Be your own detective and carefully document everything relevant about your financial, marital and parenting life. You and your attorney will need this information later, and having it collected and organized early helps you to be informed and in control of the situation.
- Get a notebook, filing system or protected email account to document your divorce. You might consider separate folders or tabs for financial information, things to discuss with your attorney, children’s resources, appointments, a to-do list and legal advice.
- Know your credit history — and your spouse’s. Obtain credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies and review them for accuracy.
- Copy or scan relevant documents and store in a safe place outside your home.
- Know where your passport is (and your children’s passports as well).
- List the locations (and where the keys are kept) for your files, safe-deposit boxes and off-site storage units.
- Describe your parenting life as if to a stranger. How many hours a day do you and your spouse see your children? Who makes their meals, takes them to school and performs the bedtime routine? Has your spouse ever cared for your children alone for more than a day or two? Have you? Does your spouse know the names of your children’s teachers, coaches, daycare providers and doctors? Do you? Do your children have any special needs or disabilities? Who attends medical appointments and therapy sessions? Who attends parent-teacher conferences and sports practices? Document this information for your records.
- List any past occurrences of possible domestic violence, whether to you or your children. Obtain any police or doctors’ reports. Keep a record of anything abusive or neglectful going forward.
- List your human resources. Some of these people, such as your tax professional or children’s teacher, might have useful information for your divorce. Others, such as your friends, family members, clergy, or counselor, might simply provide emotional support.
- Keep track of any significant changes in your family’s spending, income or account balances.
Understand Your Finances
The more you can discover now about your family’s finances, the more you will likely save in time, attorney fees and possible lost opportunities during your divorce in Oklahoma. Using your organizational system from the previous section, learn everything you can about your money. Photocopy or scan all relevant documents. Be cautious about communicating with your tax professional or stockbroker at this point, as he or she can also communicate with your spouse and may inadvertently let slip your preparations for divorce.
- KNOW YOUR DEBTS. Especially after reviewing your credit reports. List your own debts, your spouse’s, and those you have jointly. Are there any close to being paid off? Copy relevant documents, including your mortgage papers and credit cards.
- KNOW YOUR ASSETS. List banks, stockbrokers and other places where you or your spouse have accounts. Include account numbers and approximate values. Include any money saved in your children’s names, such as in trust or college accounts. List retirement accounts. List all real property, with values. List vehicles, with values. List significant personal property, such as art or jewelry, and their values. Make your best guess as to whether each asset is owned by both or only one of you. Copy your latest account statements and check registers. Inventory your safe deposit boxes and offsite storage lockers.
- KNOW YOUR FUTURE ASSETS. Do you or your spouse own stock options? When do they vest? What is their strike price? Are either of you anticipating an inheritance or trust account payment? Copy your own and your spouse’s annual social security estimate, or obtain new ones from your local social security office.
- KNOW YOUR INCOME. What do you earn as salary, commissions, bonuses and deferred compensation? What does your spouse earn? If one of you is unemployed or underemployed, what is your best guess as to their potential earnings? Do either of you need school or training to improve or start your career? If either of you are self-employed, what are some accounting documents that can help determine the amount you earn and your business expenses?
- KNOW YOUR INSURANCE. Copy your health, life, automobile and homeowner’s policies.
- KNOW YOUR TAXES. Copy your last few years’ tax returns, including schedules and supporting documents.
- KNOW YOUR VITAL STATISTICS. Copy your marriage license, social security cards, birth certificates and passports, if any. Copy your children’s social security cards, birth certificates and passports, if any.
- KNOW YOUR CURRENT HOUSEHOLD BUDGET. How much do you really spend? Include annual or quarterly expenses as well as monthly ones.
- ESTIMATE YOUR FUTURE HOUSEHOLD BUDGET. What is the minimum you need to support yourself and your children?