Broker Check

Pre-Divorce Checklist

October 05, 2020

If you have decided to pursue divorce, there are lots of things to be done. Some are vital; others are less so. This checklist is designed to help you get organized before you start the process.

Must Do

  • Get a private email address (if you don't have one already).
  • Make sure you know your credentials (user ID & password) for all institutions where you conduct financial business.[1]
  • Research and interview at least two (and up to four) attorney candidates.
  • Choose and retain an attorney before asking for a divorce.

Good to Do

  • Set aside cash in an account you control to cover your expenses for the period just after you file. Rely on the advice of your attorney when moving money from a joint account to an individual account.
  • Gather information about your family's assets:[2]
    • Where accounts are held
    • Account balances
    • Account numbers
    • Account type[3]
  • Gather information about your family's liabilities:[4]
    • Any person or institution that money is owed to
    • Outstanding balances
    • Account numbers
  • Make a list of any assets or liabilities that you believe exist but can't document.
  • Assess whether you need to hire a financial professional like a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA®) to assist with your case.
  • Set up your emotional support system (can include starting therapy).
  • Decide where you will live during the divorce.

Nice to Do (But Not Vital)

  • Research different divorce resolution processes and choose one to use[5]
  • Understand the legal process of divorce in your area
  • Plan for how you'll tell your spouse you want a divorce
  • Gather copies of prior year Tax Returns
  • Make a budget

[1] E.g., banking, credit cards, mortgage, investment accounts, retirement accounts, employer benefits
[2] You may wish to photocopy or photograph account statements to document assets not held in your name.
[3] E.g., checking, savings, brokerage, IRA, 401(k), etc.
[4] E.g., credit cards, mortgage loans, car loans, etc.
[5] E.g., litigation, collaborative, uncontested

A PDF version of this list is available here.