Generally in a divorce, the most important issues are resolved within sixty days of filing the divorce, which includes child custody, a visitation and holiday schedule set out for parents, child support, use of the former marital home, use of the vehicles and spousal support. The actual division of the community does not happen until much later down the road, however, clients can and should begin at the onset of the divorce proceeding to gather information and documentation in order to make the final division of assets and debts proceed smoother. It is easy to gear up and deal with custody and the temporary financial issues right away, take a breath when that is over and let the final division of the community linger. In Louisiana, there is no set timeline for dividing the community property. It is, for the most part, up to either party how fast or slow they want this process to take. I am telling you from a professional opinion to not let this get swept under the rug. The more time that passes, the more documentation you will need to put together and the more work the final division will entail for both you, as the client, and me, as the attorney. Here’s an example of how clients should begin to compile and list their community assets and debts from the get-go: SDL Worksheet Example
Let’s be honest. Dividing up all of the assets and debts of a marriage is not fun. Not one client I have had is ever excited about it and a lot of times it is like pulling teeth getting clients to provide me with the detailed information I need to move forward. I understand it’s not something you look forward to, but think of it like going to the dentist. Most people hate it, but people also realize that it is just one of those things that needs to be done. Once you make the dentist appointment, much like compiling the necessary community property information I need, you will feel better. Sometimes the actual division of the community can take several years to finalize, so I advise clients to immediately make a list of all community assets and debts at the beginning of the divorce proceeding and obtain supporting proof of the values of all assets and debts. Remember that the community will terminate retroactive to the date the original petition of divorce is filed, so it is important to go ahead and print out a copy of all statements on bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc., as well as the balance of any debts as of the date the petition for divorce was filed. It is much easier to do this at the time the divorce proceeding was initiated than waiting several months down the road and having to request (and sometimes pay for) specific statements.
Also, it is crucially important to keep documentation of any community debts paid by you after the petition for divorce was filed. You may be entitled to reimbursement for one-half of these funds, but if you can’t prove it, you can’t claim it! Keep organized and accurate proof of all of your finances following the filing of the petition for divorce. Your finances will be under scrutiny by the judge or the hearing officer, whether for child support, spousal support or community property division, so it is so important to be organized and keep track of every penny going in and out of your bank account during this time. The more organized and more supporting documentation you have now means much less work down the road.