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The Most Important Document in Your Divorce Case

assets liabilities balance sheet

It's the most important document in your divorce case: the Balance Sheet. What is the Balance Sheet and how will it help you? This article is designed to make sure you understand how critical the Balance Sheet is when it comes to winning your divorce case.

The balance sheet focuses on valuing, distributing, and dividing all marital assets and liabilities.

Whether you are going through a contested divorce or a dissolution, in every case the Balance Sheet is what the judge uses to determine an equitable division of assets and liabilities—what you get and what your spouse gets.

This is because divorce laws in Ohio will call for property distribution, child custody, and spousal support to be considered throughout your proceedings. To aid in this process, you'll need to essentially lay out every detail of everything you own.



To fairly divide property or account for potential spousal or child support, divorce laws in Ohio also call for a detailed budget. This will cover everything you needed over the last year and will form the basis of your temporary or ongoing spousal support. 

To fairly divide property or account for potential spousal or child support, divorce laws in Ohio also call for a detailed budget. This will cover everything you needed over the last year and will form the basis of your temporary or ongoing spousal support.

Lists to Create

This means you and your divorce attorney will have to create lists of:

  • The property you own;
  • Debts you owe;
  • Belongings in your house;
  • Items in safe deposit boxes;
  • Items in storage units;
  • Items that are yours (not your spouse's);
  • Items you inherited;
  • Items that are your spouse's (not yours); and
  • Items your spouse inherited.

This list is not comprehensive but should give you a good idea of what items you need. You and your divorce lawyer can determine if you need to add to or subtract things from this list.

List all of the marital assets on a piece of paper that is worth more than $500 and put the current value next to each. And remember, marital assets are defined as property purchased/accumulated during the time of marriage. Add them up.

For example, the house – $350,000, your Toyota Camry – $12,000, your wife’s 401k – $23,000.

At this time, do not include your personal property such as clothes and jewelry unless the item has a value of over $500 and the value can be proven.

Do not include the IRA that you had before the marriage and that has not been touched since (that is a separate property that should be listed as such).

List all of the marital debts on another piece of paper. Include credit card payments, loans, and debt. Again, do not list debts that you had before the marriage. Add them up.

For example, your Visa card balance owed, a $3400 car loan, your spouse's $2,900 medical bills.

Do not list debts that you had before the marriage (a loan from Grandma for college that you are still paying back is a separate debt and should be listed as such).

Important point: Each asset and debt must have documented proof of their value. That means a statement of account with the current date and value must be provided.

Total and Divide

Add the total amount of assets from list one to the total amount of debts from list two. This number is an estimate of the total amount of the marital estate. Divide that number in half. Ideally, each spouse should be able to walk away with at least one-half of the total marital estate.

Next, look at the assets and liabilities and distribute each to one spouse or the other. Put the name of the asset/debt under either spouse’s name. Add each spouse’s values and compare them to each other.

Is the figure around the same as the number you came up with when you added up list one and list two? If not, why? Is there a good reason?

Try to think of assets or liabilities that are important to you and your spouse. Come up with two or three different proposals that would be "ballpark" fair. That is what a court prefers the parties to do—compromise.

Take your proposals to your attorney and discuss how fair they are and how your proposal could work. If you are having trouble doing this, ask your divorce lawyer or another neutral party to help. Just remember, the more items you and your spouse disagree on and fight over, the longer your case will take and the more money you will have to spend.

As most attorneys would tell you, the law always involves a lot of preparation and a lot of paperwork. The best thing you can do to prepare to win your divorce case is to arm yourself with as much information as possible.

A Balance Sheet should help you get started.

 

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