Documents to Keep After Your Divorce is Final
Once your divorce is final, we recommend that you keep certain documents, especially if you are receiving child support and alimony from your ex-spouse. Many people may feel like they need to destroy certain documents, such as the marriage license, because he or she may not want to keep things that remind him or her of their ex-spouse. It is very important to keep certain documents and records because you may unfortunately need them in the future, especially if your ex-spouse fails to pay his support obligations to both you and your children. Below is a brief list of the documents and records that we highly recommend that you keep after your divorce. We recommend keeping these documents in a firesafe security or file box. We do not, however, recommend that you keep any important documents in a safety deposit box. If something happens to you, your family may not be able to retrieve these documents from your safety deposit box.
- Copies of checks and/or money orders: If your ex-spouse is required to pay child support or alimony to you, it is very important that you make copies of these checks and/or money orders for your records. If your ex-spouse insists on paying you cash, however, we highly recommend that you give your spouse a receipt, which both you and your spouse sign. Receipt books only cost a couple of dollars and they could help you immensely in the future if you need to file an action with the court. If your ex-spouse makes the payments in cash, it is very difficult to prove to the court that he or she made these payments to you since there is usually no tangible evidence showing these payments were made.
Also, in addition to making copies of all checks and/or money orders, we highly recommend that you keep a log of all of the payments that you received. You can either keep the log on your computer or a notepad. Every month, you should make an entry in the log listing the amount of the payment, the check number, and the date received. If your spouse fails to make a payment, you should still make an entry, but you should put "no payment received". It is so much easier to calculate how much money your spouse owes you when you have a tangible record of it. The downside to keeping detailed records on the computer is that you would lose these records if your hard drive crashes or your computer is lost or stolen - if you do please be sure to backup the file regularly and keep a backup copy offsite.
- Financial Documents: Besides checks, it is important that you keep either the original or copies of your financial documents, such as bank statements, credit card statements, any retirement account statements, and tax returns. You may need them if you or your ex-spouse files a modification action with the court in the future. Most times, the parties exchange discovery during the course of the case and the other side will ask for financial documents. Usually, the other side will request three years worth of financial documents or copies of the financial documents since the date of your divorce. This will save you time and money because you will already have the documents in your possession.
- Marriage license: A copy or the original marriage license is especially important if you and your ex-spouse were married for over ten (10) years. If you were married for over ten (10) years, then you are entitled to a portion of your ex-spouse's social security when he retires. You will, however, need to submit a copy to the Social Security Administration showing the date that you were married as well as a copy of the Final Judgment and Decree showing the date on which you were divorce.
- Settlement Agreement and Final Judgment and Decree from your divorce: It is very important that you keep a copy of both of the Settlement Agreement and the Final Judgment and Decree from your divorce. If you file a modification action against your ex-spouse in the future, you need to attach these documents as exhibits. It will save you time and money because you will already have these documents in your possession. The Final Judgment and Decree is also important in case you need to change your last name back to your maiden name.
- Last Will and Testament: It is not as important to keep a copy of your will as it is to remember to change your will once you and your ex-spouse's divorce is final. It is important to also change your will if you have any additional children to make sure that they are included in your will to avoid any future disputes amongst your family members.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The law firm of Meriwether & Tharp was established in 1998 in Norcross, Georgia by partners Patrick L. Meriwether and Robert L. Tharp. In 2000, the offices were relocated from Norcross to Alpharetta, Georgia and the firm began expanding its professional staff and focusing its practice on family and business law matters, including divorce, contempt, and modification actions. At Meriwether & Tharp our experienced family law attorneys recognize that domestic troubles can be emotionally and financially taxing. Our lawyers provide personal, individualized legal services, covering the full spectrum of family law issues.
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