New York is an equitable distribution state, meaning that nearly all assets and debt acquired by either spouse during marriage will be divided equitably, or fairly, if the couple gets a divorce. To prove which assets constitute marital property and what their value is, separating couples typically need to review and exchange a multitude of documents. Being forthcoming and honest about these assets makes the divorce process significantly less expensive, especially if spouses compile the necessary documents before even meeting with their family law attorneys.
First, divorcing individuals should gather documents relating to their income and finances, including tax returns, pay stubs and bank account statements, whether or not the accounts are held jointly or separately. Tax returns and pay stubs may need to be provided for the duration of the marriage, but gathering whatever a person has in his or her possession is a good start.
Couples who share a marital home will need to provide documents reflecting the home’s purchase price, the mortgage payments, the title of the home and the outstanding balance on the mortgage. If either person owns a car, he or she may need to furnish proof of the title and registration as well as any amounts owed on the vehicle. Any other debts incurred during marriage should also be documented.
Even after a couple gets a divorce, ex-spouses may still be entitled to a portion of a pension fund or retirement account. Any documents reflecting investments or retirement funds or accounts should be shown to a family law attorney. It is also a good idea to pull any documents relating to accounts on which an ex is listed as a beneficiary, like a life insurance policy or 401(k), since a person going through a divorce will presumably want to change that designation.