Not many married people view divorce as a business transaction, but to the Iowa family courts, many aspects of a dissolution of marriage are exactly that. And even to those who are trying to answer questions like, “will I be able to see my children?” and “where am I going to live?” financial considerations are of major importance.

If you’re thinking of getting a divorce, you need to ask yourself too how your money matters are handled and whether, once you decide to divorce, your spouse can prevent you from having access to funds or property. We don’t recommend that you take away your spouse’s access either … fairness to yourself and your spouse should be the paramount concern. It is often worthwhile to talk to an attorney before dropping this news on a spouse.

Iowa divorce and family law attorneys often receive clients who are certain that they want a divorce, but haven’t done the financial due diligence on their property. When you meet with your family law attorney, it’s important to at least have an idea about what your house is worth, how much is owed, what investments you and your spouse have made, how much you invested individually before you were married, etc. Having this information ready for your divorce lawyer when you meet may save you both time-which could translate to fewer visits to his or her office and fewer billable hours.

The following are some of the items that you should try to calculate before you make your first appointment with an Iowa divorce attorney. Sometimes, depending on the reaction that you anticipate from your spouse, it might be wiser to investigate these things before you announce to him or her your intention to file for divorce.

  • Real Property — This includes your home and any investment houses, condos, vacation properties, or any other type of land or building that you may own. If the property was purchased before the marriage by either party, it should still be included. Also, you will need to calculate the amount of mortgages, liens, and revolving lines of credit on any of the properties that you list. Often times, these days, homes are underwater–meaning you owe more than they are worth–this is something you need to know when you begin a divorce.
  • Cash — This includes money in checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, or anything else that is either cash or can easily be converted to cash. You will need access to this case going forward, and, we’ve often seem spouses try to prevent their partners from having any cash at their disposal.
  • Revolving Credit Lines — Credit card debt, signature loans, or any other unsecured debt. Whose name are on the cards? How much is owed? What were the purchases for?
  • Marketable Securities – Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and anything else that is traded on an exchange. You should also try to have an idea if any of the securities were bought on margin (purchased with debt).
  • Retirement Accounts — Include pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, deferred compensation plans, and IPERS.
  • Vehicles – All cars, motorcycles, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles that you own and the loan balances on them.
  • Art, Collectibles, Jewelry, etc. — Include all personal items of value. Even if you consider something individually yours, Iowa law may not. Try to accurately calculate the value and bring the information to your divorce attorney.
  • Businesses and Partnerships — If you and your spouse own a proprietorship, or one of you is a partner in a business, that ownership share has value. A partnership may be difficult to calculate without cooperation from your spouse or their being compelled to disclose the value of their share.

Many Iowans who are seeking divorces are startled to find that the net value of what they own is drastically different than what they had thought. However, regardless of whether you and your spouse’s combined net worth is higher or lower than what you had previously thought, it’s better to have an accurate idea before you sit down in front of you divorce attorney.