What Financial Paperwork Will I Have To Turn Over To My Spouse?
One of the very first things a lawyer will advise you if you’re going through a divorce is to obtain your financial records, such as bank account statements, credit card statements, title paperwork, and mortgage documents. Even though some couples shared records during their marriage, divorcing couples still need to surrender at least some financial paperwork. If your spouse refuses to share financial information or comply with divorce discovery, this article will explain what you can do.
Requesting Financial Information During a Divorce: An Overview
Divorcing spouses in some states are required to furnish each other with certain financial information at the start of the case, referred to in New Hampshire “mandatory disclosures” or “1.25-a” documents (named after the court rule that requires them). Suppose you and your spouse live in one of these jurisdictions. In that case, you will be required to share a list of assets and debts, financial account information, credit card balances, and other comparable information. In New Hampshire, before most hearings, both spouses must file “financial affidavits” with each other and the court that lists each spouse’s assets and debts, income information, and a thorough monthly budget that lists all usual spending for both parents and children.
In some states, including New Hampshire, spouses are also required to provide specific documents to each other at the start of the divorce process. Some of these documents include the last few years’ tax returns and bank statements, W-2s, and recent financial account statements, such as retirement account statements and brokerage, are typically given to each other by spouses.
If you want more information than what is required by the mandatory disclosure rule, you can send your spouse a request known as “Request for Production of Document.” You can also send “Interrogatories,” which are questions for your spouse to answer under oath. Spouses must respond to requests for papers and interrogatories or declare their legal objections to the requested information.
Using the legal system to compel your spouse to reveal financial information
Suppose your spouse refuses to give financial information, whether under required discovery or a special request for documents or information. If so, you can go to court. Divorce judges understand that unless spouses have all of the information concerning their marital estates, they will not reach a fair and informed divorce settlement agreement. Therefore, family law courts have a variety of instruments at their disposal to compel spouses to reveal financial information.
You might start by filing a “Motion to Compel,” which asks the court to require your spouse to turn over documents. First, your spouse would have to answer your motion in writing, stating the legal reasons for not responding. A court would then determine whether the material sought is relevant to the divorce action and not protected by any legal privilege (such as attorney-client privilege, doctor-patient privilege, or a Fifth Amendment privilege). Finally, suppose the court decides that the financial information should be disclosed. In that case, the judge will issue an order requiring your spouse to submit the documents within a set amount of time.
If your spouse continues to refuse to give financial information after the court has issued an order ordering them to do so, you can seek the court to hold them in “contempt,” which means they have broken a court order. A judge might impose a variety of sanctions on your spouse after a contempt ruling, including:
- Monetary penalties
- An attorney’s fee award—where your spouse pays your attorney’s costs for filing the motion
- Evidentiary sanctions—where the court restricts your spouse from introducing specific evidence at trial
- Default – where the court finds in your favor without a further hearing
- Jail time—where the court orders your spouse to serve in jail until he or she complies
Obtaining Records That Have Been Lost
Bank statements, pay stubs, and other paperwork might go misplaced over time. Your divorce lawyer can send subpoenas to the financial institutions directly if your spouse refuses to produce them or doesn’t have access. Although the responses to these subpoenas are objectively the most powerful evidence of a family’s holdings, they often come at a cost. Before expending the expense, your divorce lawyer may request the records from your spouse’s counsel.
Divorce is a time-consuming and paper-intensive process. Every financial detail of your life before and after your divorce must be documented by your divorce lawyer. You can save money on attorney fees and get the best advice on any prospective divorce settlement by working with your attorney to acquire this documentation.