Divorce Binders 101


JUNE, 2017

Divorce Insights

The Law

My lawyer told me to save everything.

So I did. I saved every piece of paper my lawyer sent me. Every legal document, every email; anything and everything that was pertinent to my divorce. I even saved and printed “documentation” from my ex-husband. Just to be safe.

And I kept it all in a three-ring binder.

When I first started out, I had a 1″ binder. Just like the one I used to keep track of the plants in my garden every year. Surely that would be enough to hold the documents from my divorce, right?

A couple of months later, I had to upgrade to a 2″ binder. I was starting to amass quite the collection of legal briefs and invoices from my lawyer. Not to mention the documentation I collected on my ex-husband. From hotel receipts that came through to our shared email to text messages he sent during the divorce process. Financial records and bank statements. I saved everything and it was starting to pile up.

My Ginormous Divorce Binder

By the time the first court date rolled around – 3 months into the process – I had maxed out the space in a 4″ binder, which I carried with me to my first day in court.

My lawyer just laughed when she saw me. “You told me to save everything.” I said, feeling rather proud of myself. It was cathartic, keeping that binder. Having an organized account of what was happening helped give me a sense of power during a time when I felt everything was beyond my control.

It was a good thing I kept such meticulous records, too, as I ended up having to give an extra copy of the financial documents to my lawyer so she could give them to my ex-husband’s lawyer and file them with the court. My ex had left out a few details on our finances, so MY documentation would be used in the settlement. See? My Ginormous Divorce Binder came in handy, after all!

Save Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING.

As you go through the divorce process, remember to keep everything – including a level head. Your divorce binder can help on both accounts!

Here is how to build your own Divorce Binder:

  • Go to your favorite office supply store and buy a 4″ binder (start big, trust me). If you have children and will be working through custody issues, buy two.
  • Get a set of “binder tabs” to keep each type of documentation neatly organized. Label the tabs as follows:
    • Legal Briefs (these are the documents your lawyer sends to you after she files them with the court)
    • Financial Records
    • Other Marital Assets (homes, property, personal belongings, etc.)
    • Communication from X (I used a not so flattering name for him in my binder, so do what works for you!)
    • Evidence (I wanted to make the “dirt” sound super official in my binder)
    • Custody Details (you may want to move this to a separate binder)
    • Lawyer Invoices (unfortunately, this becomes a pretty big section of the binder)
  • Start collecting your documents. Don’t worry, as this pretty much takes care of itself and papers will start piling up faster than you can sort them, 3-hole punch them and file them into your new binder.

But stay on it, as the time spent organizing the paperwork now will save you time and anxiety later. Like I said, it helped me make sense of the chaos – or at least I could file it neatly away.

After the divorce is over, hang onto your binder for a while. I don’t know if there is a time requirement for saving divorce documentation, but you may need to reference it later for tax purposes or if custody issues arise.

One more thing. Put your binder somewhere out of sight. I keep mine in a box in the basement. In order to include a picture with this story, I had to dig it out for the first time since I stored it away, nearly 2 years ago. It’s kind of depressing to look at. I’m not in that place anymore. Even though I can laugh at my incessant need to track and file every single piece of paper in my Divorce Binder, the words contained in those pages still make my stomach turn.

For now, I think I’ll put my binder back in the basement.


A Little Tact, Please

Hey, we all disagree from time to time. But since this is my little universe, I reserve the right to remove comments that are mean-spirited or contain verbal violence. Divorce discussion can get passionate and that's okay. But let's keep it classy and help one another instead of hurting one another.  For full details on how things work here, see Rules of the Game.