So, you and your spouse have agreed to mediate your divorce; you have decided that a problem-solving process, focusing on the well-being of all family members offers the most emotionally and financially beneficial route for the family’s present and future well-being.
Invariably the question then arises: What do we have to do in order to be prepared? What do we need to bring to our first meeting? The answer is quite simple: You do not need to bring anything to the first meeting. The mediator will help you understand what information you will need to collect and simplify the process for you. However, if you still want to get started, if you want to embark on the data collection process, we have created a “be prepared” listing both for before divorce and also for after the process is completed.
Collect last quarter’s financial statements of retirement and nonretirement accounts
Copy last three years federal tax returns and, if applicable, corporate returns for the same year
Copies of wills and estate/trust documents
List all life insurance policies outside of employment, including term, variable, and whole life policies on each one’s life (with premium, cash surrender value and equity information , length of the insurance term , and beneficiaries of each policy)
List each one’s perquisites from work, including life insurance provided at no cost (e.g. one times salary) and supplemental policies (at what cost), disability coverage, and any other benefits (e.g. employer contributions to retirement )
Health insurance information (name of provider, premiums, plan information) List all credit cards, charge accounts and debit cards (whose name are they in; is one of you the primary and the other an authorized user?)
List all liabilities, including loans, car leases, education loans, mortgages, credit lines, credit card balances, loans against insurance or investment accounts, personal notes
Investments for Children (e.g., 529 Plans, UGMA, Special Needs Trusts or other trusts) Latest paystub. If you plan a name change, remember to file for one at the time of divorce.
Remember that most families are really not aware of what they spend on food, utilities, clothing, entertainment, including eating out (even Starbucks) and, as such, just becoming aware of your financial outlays will be an “eye opening experience.”
Begin to be look through bank and credit card records to trace your family’s spending
Begin to think of areas in which you can reduce discretionary spending
Begin to think of “new” costs that will result from separation (e.g., two households cost more than one household)
Begin to think of each of your priorities as well as your needs and those of your children, including “new” expenses for each parent and children.
If eligible to stay on your spouse’s health insurance policy after divorce, make sure that you have written verification of the employer’s policy and agreement to retain your coverage after divorce. Also be sure that the employer knows of the date of the divorce (the issuance of the Divorce Absolute).
If you need to secure post-divorce health insurance, coverage, research options with the Massachusetts’ Connector before divorce and compare rates to the coverage offered through COBRA under your former spouse’s plans.
If you are receiving coverage through COBRA, make sure that you have executed all documents to ensure your continued coverage.
If you and/or your spouse are funding an FSA or HSA, make sure that you both agree to future terms for funding of account(s) and eligible usage of moneys therein (withdrawals for and by whom)
Execute new Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy.
Revise Wills as agreed upon in your Separation Agreement, including custodianship of your children in the event of death of one parent or both parents and any testamentary provisions with respect to support and property agreements.
Check to be sure all beneficiary designations are in keeping with the terms of your Separation Agreement, including life insurance, investments, and real estate.
Review all estate documents to be sure that they are accurate for your post divorce situation.
Make sure all utilities of your home or apartment are in the name of the person who will be paying the bills.
Make sure you have credit cards in your name (best to do before divorce) and are not an authorized user of cards that you will no longer be using.
Close joint accounts unless there are specific terms for usage of joint accounts after divorce.
Change payroll tax status to reflect your new situation.
Make sure all transfers of retirement funds (including Qualified Domestic Relations Orders) have been effected and you have each signed off on survivorship benefits after the transfers (unless you have agreed, in your Separation Agreement to retain each other as beneficiary).
If you have filed for change of name, you will need to make a detailed listing of all the places to be contacted (e.g., social security, credit cards, bank statements, driver’s license).