Documents Needed to Prepare the Marital Balance Sheet

Prepared by Mercer Capital’s Family Law Services Team

We have written in the past about the benefits of hiring an expert in family law cases, whether it’s expected to settle or go to trial.

In this multi-piece series, we want to provide you with a resource that will assist you and your clients during one of the most difficult times in their lives, both emotionally and financially, and inspired by a recent post we read.

Often, one spouse takes on the primary responsibility of paying bills, filing taxes, and various other management of household finances. During divorce, this can lead the other spouse to feel lost, or at least at a disadvantage.

Mercer Capital has compiled a list of financial documents that are typically needed in the divorce process and decoded common financial terms helpful to attorneys and their clients.

Financial experts can assist in determining the relevant documents based on the facts and circumstances of the case, which can reduce the burden of hunting down extraneous documents. Most financial documents fall into one (or multiple) of the following categories:

  • Determining the value of the marital estate (aka marital balance sheet or net worth), and the individual assets and liabilities which comprise such
  • Determining income and expenses for spousal and/or child support (akin to an income statement or budget)
  • Determining the value of business(es)
  • Providing support for forensic services

One of the preliminary financial documents requested, unsurprisingly, is tax returns. We’ve written about this in Mercer Capital’s Navigating Tax Returns: Tips and Key Focus Areas for Family Law Attorneys and Divorcing Individuals/Business Owners, which is a great resource for understanding and reviewing tax returns, particularly for purposes of divorce.

Tax returns report income received from various sources, which is beneficial for various financial analyses, but are also beneficial in constructing the marital balance sheet. Tax returns provide insight into other financial situations such as passive income and even hidden assets.

However, tax returns are dense and may not give as granular of detail as the source documents provided to a CPA who might prepare the returns. For example, the return may not break down W-2 wages by salary/bonus, which is important to making reasonable ongoing compensation determinations. So, while it makes sense that tax returns are a preliminary financial document, they may not be the primary source for information, depending on facts and circumstances.

Another key document to request in the divorce process is a personal financial statement (“PFS”), which is more commonly available to business owners. This is often submitted to a financial institution like a bank when seeking a loan. While usually required for a business loan, it can also be used for a mortgage, and may be required annually by the bank. The PFS provides assets, liabilities and sources of income and assets, which can shortcut the process of “finding” all assets and sources of income for the couple when building the marital balance sheet or determining income for support purposes.

A PFS can also be helpful if a spouse has opined on the value of their business. When applying for a loan, a business owner might be incentivized to view the business through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes, the opposite may be true in divorce, where a divorcing business owner retains the business post-divorce. The term “divorce recession” may come to mind, and the term exists for a reason. As with everything, facts and circumstances matter. The value of a business is not stagnant over time, and the value of a company may look different following a record year as opposed to its worst year. As one of our colleagues likes to say, while the value listed on a PFS is not the data point, it is one of many data points that valuation professionals ought to consider when evaluating a company and preparing for the due diligence interview.

Documents for Marital Balance Sheet (Dividing Up Net Estate)

In most divorce cases, either the expert or attorney will need to prepare a marital balance sheet, or statement of net worth or net estate; this may be referred to differently depending on state and jurisdiction. Divorcing couples may reasonably disagree about the value of the assets and liabilities that they own, and they may further disagree on division of these items. Experts can assist both in developing the list of assets and liabilities and reviewing division scenarios. Our job is easier once we receive documents including statements with contemporaneous balances. This includes:

  • Bank statements (checking and savings accounts)
  • Any safety deposit box and contents
  • Investments/Brokerage accounts statements
  • 401k, IRA, and other retirement account statements
  • 529 plans (good to be aware of, but commonly not analyzed as these are “separate” assets for the benefit of children)
  • List of real estate owned – these may require current appraisals if they were not recently purchased
  • List of vehicles, boats, jewelry, etc.
  • Airline miles
  • List of all business interests
  • Investments that have active interest in
  • Trusts, wills, etc.
  • Mortgage statement
  • Credit card statements along with list of credit cards and accounts
  • Student Loan statements
  • Other debt statements
  • Tax refunds/liabilities
  • Credit reports
  • Insurance (home, life, auto, other assets, etc.)
  • Others may be needed depending on circumstances


A financial expert can help in many ways, including focusing the scope of a divorce case, particularly if brought in early to the process with ample time to assist with the various stages of the case. This can reduce duplicative requests and can provide an understanding of why various documents are necessary.

A competent financial expert will be able to define and quantify the financial aspects of a case and effectively communicate the conclusion.

For more information or to discuss your matter with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Essential Financial Documents to Gather During Divorce Series

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