Get Organized! One way to get ready for your separation or divorce
By Felicia Soleil, Attorney/Mediator
“I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to do!” I hear this weekly from potential clients during their initial consultation when seeking advice about separation or divorce. When combined with the usual emotional facets of a major life transition, the logistics, procedures, paperwork and financial analysis of a separation or divorce can be an added source of anxiety and overwhelm.
In times like these, getting organized can help create a sense of calm and will greatly assist any professional you engage to help you, whether a lawyer, mediator or financial advisor. Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”
Here’s how to tackle the organization piece so you don’t have to pay thousands of extra dollars to your professional to do it for you.
1. Gather documentation pertaining to all sources of income. If you and your partner have dependent children, you’ll need to produce at least six months’ worth of recent pay stubs, your last two years of income tax returns and last two years of W-2s. If you have an ownership interest in a business, you’ll also want to produce an updated Profit and Loss statement, K-1s, 1099s and business tax returns. If you receive disability pay, Social Security, pension payments or rental income, you’ll also need to provide proof of that income.
2. Collect your most recent statements for all of your financial accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs) and other deferred compensation accounts connected to your employment. Statements for investments, stock holdings, stock options, crypto accounts and bank accounts also need to be provided, along with documents verifying any defined benefit pensions you may be enrolled in.
3. If you own real estate, you’ll want to obtain two or three market analyses to get an idea of the current fair market value, as well as provide recent statements for any mortgage, HELOC, or other loan associated with any of the properties.
4. Put together Kelly Blue Book estimated values for each vehicle, and provide copies of any recent statements for vehicle loans. Do the same for boats, campers, RVs, trailers, ATVs, etc.
5. Obtain a recent statement from Social Security (SSA.gov) to understand your accumulated Social Security benefits and effective retirement ages, as well as pull a recent credit report to make sure you don’t have any unknown debts.
6. If you have an interest in a business, be prepared to gather documentation to assist with obtaining a value, if necessary, such as business bank accounts, accounts receivable, shareholder agreements and stock certificates.
7. Provide most recent statements for all debts such as credit cards, student loans, lines of credit and personal loans.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it will provide you an excellent head start to getting your financial house in order so you can work more efficiently—and at less cost—with your legal team, mediator or financial advisor. This exercise in organization will also help you feel more in control of a situation that may otherwise have you feeling like your world is being upended.
As A.A. Milne of Winnie the Pooh fame opined, “Organizing is something you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up!”
Felicia Soleil is a divorce mediator and family law attorney located in Gig Harbor. She helps her clients in achieving resolutions that foster both a compassionate ending to their union and a healthy new beginning so they can focus on moving on, rather than simply moving out. Felicia can be reached at 253.853.6940. All consultations are strictly confidential and currently conducted by appointment via Zoom or phone.