Trash vs. Treasure: Divorce Prep Edition

Three Things You Should Keep & One Surprising Thing You Can Throw Away

If you are thinking about divorce, it can be difficult to know where to start. While there are plenty of “do’s” and “don’ts” and checklists to find online, we want to keep it simple. Just the thought of divorce is overwhelming enough!

So, here are three things that should be at the top of your “save” pile… and one surprising thing you don’t need at all if you are headed toward divorce.

1) Keep copies of your tax returns:

Under Wisconsin law, when you are going through a divorce, you must provide at least two years of tax returns if requested by the other party or the court. You are especially likely to have to provide your tax returns in a few scenarios. Owning a business, self-employment, independent contracting, and more than one source of income all fit this category.

If you hire an attorney, they will likely request 2-3 years of tax returns for you and your spouse. This request includes all attachments and supporting documents. You can typically provide these in an electronic or hard-copy format.

Reviewing your tax returns will help your attorney advise you on how your income will affect child or spousal support. It can also give them insights into the tax implications of certain property division scenarios.

2) Keep copies of any marital property agreement:

Sometimes called “prenups” or “postnups”, a marital property agreement is a written agreement between spouses regarding ownership and division. This applies to income, assets, debts, and other properties during the marriage and upon divorce. In the event you enter such an agreement, you’ll need to file it with the court if you want to enforce or challenge it.

If you do not have a copy of your marital property agreement, you can likely get one from any attorney who was involved in the drafting or negotiation of the agreement. Say no attorney assisted — you can request a copy from your spouse. If neither you nor your spouse have a copy of it, you may not be able to prove it exists. You may also not be able to enforce it if your spouse disagrees to abide by its terms.

If you cannot find your marital property agreement, and want to reinvent it before filing for divorce, consult an attorney. Marital property agreements entered into in contemplation of divorce do not have the same force and effect as otherwise.

3) Keep a list of important passwords:

While you were happily married, you may have been content for your spouse to handle the finances. However, when going through divorce, both parties will need access to important financial information. This can include bank statements, account balances, beneficiary designations, and credit card accounts. Ensuring you have access to the documents your attorney needs will also help save money on attorneys’ fees!

You might also share “digital assets” subject to division, such as streaming services, music libraries, and cloud access to media. Ensuring you have the login credentials for these will make it easier to take over the account (if it’s awarded to you) or transfer it (if awarded to your spouse). This will also ensure you don’t lose (or have to repurchase) valuable content.

Oh, Right — The Thing You DON’T Need…

Your marriage license! Many people are surprised to learn you do not have to produce frankly any documented proof of legal marriage in order to obtain a divorce. Rather, when you file for divorce, you will be asked to swear to the truth of various facts. These are typically the date and location of your marriage. The courts will take your word for it.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to get divorced in the same state or country where you got married. In Wisconsin, a marriage “abroad” (anywhere outside of the state) is legal in Wisconsin as long as it was legal where it took place.

So, if you can’t find your marriage license — or if you tore it up and burnt it — don’t worry. You don’t need it. And you are still married, until you are divorced!

If you have questions about other important documents you will need as you prepare for divorce, or what steps you should take to get ready for the process, we’re happy to help. Call one of our experienced divorce lawyers today.