It is very important that you have full knowledge of the marital income and assets so that a fair divorce settlement can be achieved.
Therefore, in a typical divorce case, the process of “discovery” allows you or your lawyer to obtain this information from your spouse with such tools as Interrogatories, Requests for Documents, or Depositions.
The danger of relying on your spouse to disclose his or her income and assets, however, is that the information disclosed could be unreliable. After all, your spouse may be less than motivated to disclose every detail of his or her income or assets because that might mean he or she would receive less.
Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to gather documentation regarding the marital finances before any divorce action is started.
Ideally, you should obtain copies of:
- bank account statements;
- statements concerning all retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s;
- pensions, annuities, stock options;
- stocks and brokerage account statements;
- mortgage documentation, including balance owed;
- automobile loan documentation and automobile insurance policies;
- current salary, pay stubs, bonus and/or commission documentation;
- federal and state income tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, and contact information for your accountant;
- credit card statements and other loan documentation;
- medical and dental insurance information;
- life insurance policies and safe deposit box.
If your spouse is self-employed, you should try to obtain copies of corporate tax returns, stock certificates, books and records, and/or cash receipts ledgers from your accountant.
If you’re not able to get any of the above on your own, you can save time and money by talking to your lawyer about obtaining it directly from the financial institution or from your spouse’s employer so that you don’t have to rely on your spouse to provide this information. For instance, if you or your spouse transacts banking or pays bills online, you might be able to gain online access to joint accounts by setting up your own password with the financial institution.
Please call me at (973) 292-9090 to schedule a consultation where we can discuss a course of action that best meets your needs.