Getting Divorced in the New Year? Three Things You Must Do NOW

assets in divorce divorce divorce finances Jan 15, 2024

DISCLAIMER: Before we get started, just a reminder that this is generalized divorce information, not legal advice. Legal advice is particular to your jurisdiction, which is the state and county in which you live. Therefore, I always recommend scheduling a consultation with an attorney in good standing, who is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction to get legal advice that’s tailored to your particular situation.

It's the second week of January. The holidays are over and this is the time when many people take inventory of their lives, including their marriages, to figure out what's next.

If you're thinking about getting a divorce this year, you're not alone. It's often one of the busiest months of the year for new consultations for divorce attorneys. I think that's because we've all just come off of the holidays, which can be very stressful and exacerbate the problems in any relationship, especially our most intimate ones.

If you feel like you might be listing toward divorce this year, then there are three things you must do right away in the new year to be ready for this possibility.

#1: Collect and make copies of all year-end statements that arrive early in the new year. These statements generally have to be sent out by January 31st. This means all W-2s, 1099s, interest statements, fourth quarter retirement account statements, etc. This is a treasure trove of up-to-date financial information that every divorce attorney will ask you to acquire. Be ahead of the curve. Grab the statements, make a personal copy of them for yourself, and safe keep both the originals and your copy separately.  

#2: Take the original year-end financial statements to your accountant or tax preparer and get your income tax returns for the previous year filed early. Why? Two reasons. First, you'll have an up-to-date financial snapshot of your household income for your attorney. Second, filing early eliminates the issues of how and when to file the income tax returns and how to divide up the refund (or liability) between the parties. Better to figure this all with your spouse, rather than pay your attorney hundreds of dollars per hour to do so.

#3: Create a household income statement for the previous year. What's that? It's a financial statement that shows your family's income and expenditures for the previous year. The easiest way to figure out your household income is to get your income tax returns for the previous year done early. The best way to corral your expenditures is to look at your mortgage, bank and credit card statements for the previous year, because then you're using actual numbers. Otherwise, you can use a monthly expense worksheet, a sample of which you can find here.


#4: Schedule an initial consultation, in person or by video conferencing, with a divorce attorney in good standing in your state, who services the county in which you live. These consultations are often *free* and are a great source of basic information about the process of divorce in your jurisdiction.

If you need my ultimate resource for navigating the legal, financial, emotional, and personal growth aspects of divorce, you can get a PDF version of my bestselling book, Divorce Wisely here.

Best of luck in the New Year! 

- Suzanne Grandchamp