Computers were supposed to replace paper. Forty years ago, every computer vendor said so. That hasn’t happened, obviously, and when you need to complete something online, you usually need to prepare plenty of paperwork ahead of time. This is true with Do It Yourself (DIY) separation agreements. Here is a guide to gathering your paperwork for a frictionless DIY property settlement.
Central to separation is the equitable (not equal) division of liquid assets. With a nod to The Drifters way back in 1956, Money Honey matters. You need to collect information for all your finances, including:
- Bank routing numbers and bank account numbers for your everyday checking and savings accounts
- Names and account numbers for all financial institutions, including brick and mortar local banks, online banks, and investment companies
- Investment accounts, including stocks, bonds, electronically traded instruments, and more exotic things like REITS, futures, options, and direct reinvestment plans
- Retirement accounts, including military, municipal, and individual accounts
Home Loan Blues
Real estate is perhaps your greatest asset in a marriage. Just as Simply Red sang in 2003 about the home loan blues, you and your spouse know you have to deal with the family home, vacation home, timeshare, and any mortgages and taxes connected with them.
Find paperwork that spells it all out:
- Address of each property
- Date of each property purchase
- Names on the deed for every property
- Names on the mortgage
- Amount owed on the mortgage
- Current fair market value
Do not expect to have everything on a single paper. You may need to search your safe deposit box, a home firebox or safe, or your county real estate records office (usually within the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court).
We mean the 2011 Coldplay song, since its melancholy may match your mood during separation. You need your marriage certificate so you can provide details on the city, state, and date of your marriage.
Along with that bittersweet memory, though, you can also look forward to change: you need to know the date of separation.
The Debt I Owe
Lou Reed sang about it in 2011, but every marriage has it: personal and marital debt. That has to be split, too. Find and organize the paperwork on:
- Credit card (unsecured) debt — Gas cards, store cards, bank cards
- Vehicle loans
- Personal loans — Also called signature loans, these are through banks, savings & loans, or credit unions
- Student loans — Taken out for yourself, your spouse, or your children
- Miscellaneous debt — Medical bills, utilities, cell phones, municipal fees, traffic tickets, court fines, payday loans
Isn’t She Lovely
Your children, if you and your spouse have any, are fundamental in any separation agreement. We all agree with Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song that our children are lovely, but your separation agreement needs to have facts related to the kids:
- Number of minor children
- Names and birthdates of the children
- Special needs
- Medical and dental insurance details
In addition, you and your spouse need to develop a working plan for legal and physical custody, parenting time, and a visitation schedule for every major holiday, birthdays, and school vacations.
If you and your spouse own or operate a business, you have to decide its future. (If you don’t own a business, you can just think back to Paramore’s 2007 song, Misery Business.)
Will you keep the business? Which one of you will keep it? Will you sell it and split the proceeds? Will you continue to jointly own it, but change the percentage of ownership?
Yes, we mean the 2008 Kid Rock song, but we also mean your military service. With your contribution to your nation’s security comes contributions back to you:
- Thrift Savings Plan
- Military Retirement
- Veterans Group Life Insurance
- VA benefits
These all have value and need to be considered in your separation. You need to know current values and earnings (your High-3), which you can get from the DoD.
True when the Beatles sang about him in 1966 and true today, the taxman always comes. You and your spouse have to decide:
- How you will file state and federal income taxes for the year you are separating — as married filing separately, married filing jointly, or as head of household
- Who will claim the children on tax returns in which years?
- Who will pay real estate taxes on real property (family home, vacation home) during the tax year you separate?
This means you need last year’s tax returns, evidence of payment of any school taxes, real estate taxes, and local taxes paid this tax year, and
As you can see, even an online DIY separation agreement depends on a firm foundation of paper. When you have your paperwork in order, go to EasyDIYDivorce.com to create your customized, personally accurate and appropriate separation agreement. Avoid costly mistakes. Avoid impersonal, boilerplate nonsense that will not work in Virginia. Get legal documents in minutes. Save heartache and money and start to live the life you love.