What Do I Need to Bring?
A: At the first session, you are not required to bring any specific paperwork. However, many clients come prepared with key financial documents, which are usually helpful and move the case forward a little quicker. Once your first session is scheduled, you will receive an email from Graine Mediation with a suggested list of documents to gather. Those suggested documents are also set forth below in the question: "What documents will I need to gather and/or prepare for mediation?"
At your first session, the actual issues for settlement will be determined. The mediator will then be in a better position to craft "homework" assignments for your unique case, e.g., documents to be gathered, budgets to be prepared, refinance pre-approvals, rental real estate shopping, job searches, asset and liability distribution proposals, parenting arrangement suggestions, etc.
A: After our first session, I will have a much better understanding of which supporting financial documents we will need in order for both of you to be able to make informed settlement decisions. Many clients come to the first mediation session ready to participate; but,they do not actually begin gathering documents until after they see how things go at that first session. Others come prepared with documents that they think will be important for settlement. Both methods are fine. It is up to you.
Below is a list of information and documents that we often refer to when settling a divorce case:
- Gross Monthly Incomes (paystubs, LES (Military), tax returns, W-2s, documentation that shows gross income if a party owns a small business)
- Net Monthly Incomes and the exact deductions that are taken Out (paystubs, LES, tax returns, documentation that shows net income if a party owns a small business)
- All other sources of Income (brokerage & bank statements showing dividends & interest, leases/bank statements showing rental income received, tax returns,1099s, etc.)
- A list of Assets & Property (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks, bonds, valuable antiques and collectibles, etc) including how they are titled and how they were acquired (especially whether acquired prior to the marriage, whether acquired with assets acquired before the marriage and/or whether acquired by gift or inheritance)
- A list of Liabilities & Debts (credit cards, student loans, personal loans, tax liabilities, etc) including the name of the party on the debt and specifics as to why the debt was acquired (especially if either party is claiming that a particular debt should belong to only one of them)
- Marital Residence - value, mortgage balance, monthly payments, lines of credit, source of down payment, purchase price, deed, necessary repairs and upgrades (for sale or otherwise)
- Same for other real estate owned
- Monthly Expenses - A good idea of what your household and monthly expenses are and projections for what these expenses will be when you are living in separate households (if not doing so already)
- Health Insurance – Current costs for health insurance for parties; projected costs for health insurance when parties are each on individual policies (if not done already)
- Children’s Health Insurance – Cost to insure children
- Automobiles, Motorcycles, Boats - Name on title, name on note, value, monthly payments, insurance costs, mileage
- College Costs for Children - What is the plan for college costs? Are there college savings accounts? Identify, value, ownership
- Pension – Documents that identify asset (e.g., FERS, CSRS, Military Retirement, corporate pension), documents that show present value (if you have it), estimated monthly payments once in pay status (if you have it), date pension contributions began (before marriage?), future date of eligibility or date payments began, status of survivor benefits
- Retirement Assets (not pension) – Document that identify asset (e.g., TSP, 403(b), 401(a), 401(k), IRA, Roth IRA, SEP SIMPLE, etc.), most recent statement showing value, date contributions began (before marriage?), beneficiary status
- Other Deferred Compensation Plans including, but not limited to, Stock Option Plans/ESOPs, Restricted Stock Plans, Employee Stock Purchase Plans, etc. – Documents that identify type of asset, all documentation necessary to fully demonstrate the purpose/reason for the deferred compensation (if it exists), the date the deferred compensation was allocated to the employee spouse, the vesting schedule, documentation to show any and all stock options, etc. that have been exercised/cashed in and whereabouts of that asset at present
- Small or Closely Held Business Interests – P&Ls, balance sheets, K-1s, tax returns with all schedules (usually, last 3-5 years), valuations, buy-sell agreements
- Loan & Credit Applications – Business and personal loan and credit applications
A: Whether or not you hire experts and professionals will depend on the facts and issues in your case. As a general rule, it is always best to have as much clear advice and information as possible upon which to base your settlement decisions. Speculation, when it comes to financial decision-making, should be kept to a minimum. Your decision to hire experts will depend on factors such as:
- your level of expertise and understanding with regard to the financial matters in your case;
- the complexity of the information that you need to understand;
- whether a family business is involved;
- whether there are unique assets in your case that need to be professionally valued/appraised;
- whether separate (non marital) assets have been commingled with marital assets; and
- the cost of the expert advice and information.