When a couple separates, full financial disclosure is the cornerstone of both good legal advice, and a binding and durable resolution of your financial affairs. You can get a better legal opinion and keep your legal costs down if you collect the required information in an organized fashion and give a copy to your lawyer at the outset.
You will need:
- A copy of any domestic contract (such as a marriage contract or cohabitation agreement) that you have signed
- Your most recent pay stub
- Your last three years of income tax returns, including any material that was filed with the returns, along with Notices of Assessment and Re-Assessment
Married couples usually need to establish the value of your assets and debts as of your date of separation, so also collect:
- The statement for each bank account or other account in a:
- financial institution
- registered retirement or other savings plan
- any other savings or investments that you have
- A copy of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s assessment of any real property that you own
- If your property has been appraised, include the appraisal report
- If you own a life insurance policy, the statement showing the face amount and cash surrender value, if any, of the policy, and the named beneficiary
- If you run a business or are self-employed, the financial statements of your business from the last three years and, if applicable, the last three years of income tax returns of the business
- If you are a partner in a partnership, a copy of the partnership agreement
- If you have an interest in a corporation, documentation showing the number and types of shares of the corporation
- If you are a beneficiary under a trust, a copy of the trust settlement agreement and the trust’s last three financial statements
- Details of any gifts or inheritances you received from a third person
- Details of any damages you have received or rights you may have to damages for personal injury, nervous shock, mental distress, or loss of care, guidance and companionship
- The statements or invoices in relation to any mortgage, line of credit, credit card balance or other debt
For married couples, the law is interested in what you owned and owed on the date you were married, so gather any available documentation showing the value, on the date of marriage, of:
- property that you owned or in which you had interest on the date you were married
- debts that you had on the date you were married
If you have an idea of what your spouse owned and owes on or around the date that you separate, it would be helpful to make a list, with your best estimates of the values. Do the same for the date of marriage, if you know. If you have an idea of what income your spouse has, write that down.
If you track expenses or have a budget, bring that to your lawyer. If you do not, consider tracking expenses.
Taking the time to assemble this financial information will help your lawyer give you efficient and accurate advice, which will save you legal fees.