Fighting insomnia? We recommend visiting The University of Queensland (Australia) website1 dedicated to the Pitch Drop Experiment. Thrill to seeing live webcam views of pitch, a substance that literally moves at a glacial pace, as it drips from a funnel. A funnel set up in 1927. A funnel with pitch in it intended to demonstrate whether pitch is a solid or a viscous liquid. In 87 years exactly nine drops of pitch have fallen. This experiment (which is still going on, heaven help us) is what you might call stately. It does not require extensive daily recordkeeping. The same is not true of your legal proceedings in a divorce, custody or support case. Here, keeping scrupulous notes for your family law record is vital.
Documentation for Separation & Divorce
Many parts of the Code of Virginia talk about “preponderance of evidence,” “documentation,” and so forth. Where do you think plaintiffs and defendants come up with these records? Their lawyers make them scrounge around for every shred of paper, that’s how.
Here is a partial list of the sorts of records your attorney may have you bring to get started on a divorce or separation. Yes, we said partial. Your lawyer may ask for even more if your case is especially tricky.
- Advance Health Care Directives
- A list of home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, computers, clothing, furs and sentimental items
- A list of property owned by each spouse prior to marriage
- A list of property acquired by each spouse individually by gift or inheritance during the marriage
- Bank statements for the past year
- Benefits statements
- Certificates of deposit
- Credit card statements for the past year
- Completed financial statements
- Individual income tax returns for past three to five years (federal, state, and local)
- Proof of your current income
- Proof of spouse’s current income
- Prenuptial or separation agreement, if any
- Pension statements for the past year
- Retirement account statements for the past three to five years
- Stock portfolios
- Stock options
- Mortgages (first and second; primary and vacation home)
- Property tax statements
- Loan documents
- Utility bills
- Employment contracts
- Life insurance policies
- Health insurance policies
- Homeowner’s insurance policies
- Automobile insurance policies
- Personal property appraisals
- Real property appraisals
- Identification of safe deposit box contents
- Living Wills
- Powers of Attorney
- Durable Powers of Attorney
If you are self-employed or own a business, bring all the paperwork related to that, too. You may feel you are paying for some very expensive archiving, but your lawyer needs to get a complete picture of your marriage. This means exposing all your financial, familial, and personal secrets. You will not have the trained eye to know what key piece of paper could help in your divorce. Let your attorney be — well, not the judge, exactly, but the screener, if you will — of what to use and what to store away again.
Gathering Evidence for Your Family Law Case
Richard Lenski is the father, grandfather, great grandfather and great-great-great-great-great grandfather of a very long lineage of E. Coli bacteria. His Long Term Experimental Evolution Project2 has developed 50,000 generations of bacteria since 1988. Humans have only been around for 7,500 generations since our origin. An entire generation of E. Coli needs only a few hours to come into being. This means the paperwork on the experiment is a tad voluminous. It is like producing a complete family reunion scrapbook every 20 minutes or so.
You might feel the same pressure to gather evidence you need to support whatever positions you aver on custody, child support, spousal support, or fault for divorce. This could mean all of the following:
- Photographic evidence of infidelity
- Children’s medical, academic and religious records
- Bills related to children’s upbringing, such as music lessons, athletic leagues, clubs, and the like
- Documentary evidence that could undermine your spouse’s claims, such as hotel and bar receipts, police records for accidents, drug arrests and domestic abuse by her against you or your children
- Your personal diary of observations about her behavior toward you, your children, and situations in which you needed to work together (but she could not be depended upon to behave maturely and correctly)
Also gather evidence to support your claims of being a fit father, such as pictures and video of you attending concerts, performances, and athletic events. Photo albums showing continuity of fathering through holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Fourth of July, etc.) can also demonstrate a history of your good parenting.
After the Dust Settles …
How long should you hold onto all that paperwork once your divorce is final? Probably not as long as the Harvard Laboratory of Adult Development’s longitudinal study3, which began in 1939 and is still going on.
Definitely hold onto all your paperwork for several years (ask your lawyer how long), so you can continue to fight motions or petitions long after the divorce is final. Continue to collect records, too, of your growing children and any behaviors that your spouse shows during visitation meetings.
A few papers should become part of your permanent collection, not necessarily for display under glass, but for your own purposes. Never destroy or toss out the final divorce decree, for example. As you rebuild and draw up new wills, keep those records safe, and hold onto everyone’s birth certificates, Social Security cards, and any military discharge paperwork.
Call the Only Family Law Firm for Men in Virginia
Whether you are the kind who keeps fastidious records and prefers to move at a stately pace, or the kind who throws caution to the wind and papers into a shoebox, we at The Firm for Men can help. Call us at (757) 383-9184 or contact us today. For divorce, custody, spousal and child support, and more, we are your helping hand with recordkeeping. Please, though, leave your weird experiments at home.