Documents and Records Your Attorney Will Need To Start Your Divorce

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One of the first questions asked by prospective family law clients is “What do I need to bring to my attorney to help start my divorce?”  In order to reach division of the assets and debts of the marriage, as well as to determine support that may be paid by either party, the party’s financial situation must be determined and assets and debts identified.

The two basic family law forms used to document assets and debts are the Schedule of Assets and Debts and the Income and Expense Declaration.  Each party will complete each form and exchange it with the other.

The Schedule of Assets and Debts (Judicial Council Form FL-142) is used to report all assets that the parties own as well as any assets either party may claim as his or her separate property.  This form is divided into easy-to-follow categories of assets.   This form also includes community and separate debts.  This completed form is exchanged between the parties but not filed with the Court.

The Income and Expense Declaration (Judicial Council Form FL-150) is used to report the income of the party completing the form as well as expenses.  The form includes places for all income sources including investment income.  The expenses may be (1) estimated expenses, (2) actual expenses, or (3) proposed needed.  This document is exchanged between the parties and is filed with the Court if there is a request for child and/or spousal support.

The question is where does the attorney and the client get the information to complete these two very important documents?  The client provides the basic documents from which this information is gleaned.   Clean, clear copies of each document are needed.  Usually the originals are not needed, so if you are worried that the other party will notice that the documents are gone, just make copies and leave the originals in place.

The following is a list of documents that will help in preparing your disclosure forms:


  • Your paycheck stubs for the last three months
  • Your spouse’s paycheck stubs for the last three months if they are available to you
  • The last two years Federal and State income tax returns.  If you own a family business include income tax returns for the business.  Make sure you have included W-2s and 1099s.
  • If you or your spouse applied for a loan within the last two years a copy of the loan application.  This must include any financial statements or statements of net worth prepared by you or your spouse.


  • Documents showing the legal description of any real property owned together or separately.  This includes deeds of trusts.
  • Last mortgage statement for each piece of property
  • Property tax bills and assessor’s statements
  • Purchase and re-finance documents for each piece of property
  • Any liens against the property


  • Bank statements for all checking accounts held in your name or both names
  • Bank statements for all savings accounts held in your name or both names
  • Monthly statements for Visa, Master Charge, American Express, or other credit cards


  • Pension plan information for both parties
  • 401(k), 457, 403(b), IRA statements
  • CD or other investment statements
  • Appraisals on valuable collections (stamp, guns, jewelry, art work, etc.)


  • Copy of all car, truck, and motorcycle registrations and ownership certificates
  • Copy of all boat, airplane, and recreational vehicle registrations and ownership
  1.      If it needs to be registered, then a copy of the registration is needed.
  • Copy of loans on any vehicles with the last monthly statement
  • Copy of insurance documents for all vehicles requiring insurance


  • Life insurance policies
  • Vehicle insurance policies
  • Home owners or renters insurance policies


  • In addition to your credit card statements and your monthly loan payments, the following will assist in identifying your monthly expenses:
  • Mortgage or rent
  • PG&E
  • Water
  • Garbage
  • Cable
  • Telephones
  • Gasoline and repairs for you vehicles
  • Student or personal unsecured loans
  • Education expenses for children or the parties

Other documents may be needed and your attorney will identify these documents for you.  Special situations, such as a self-employed spouse, may require additional documents.

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