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With most marriages, the division of household responsibilities is commonly split between the husband and wife based on strengths and interests. For example, a husband might agree to take care of the yard work, while the wife handles the indoor housekeeping.

Although this “divide and conquer” approach helps to get the regular chores done, it can pose a problem during a divorce if only one spouse handles the family finances without the other knowing the details. In this case, is it possible for the spouse who doesn’t handle the finances to find out how much they have?

Obtaining Financial Information

There are many ways to obtain such information during the “discovery” phase of your divorce case. In Arizona, court rules require mandatory disclosure by each side of any information that may impact their case. This means that your spouse must voluntarily provide you all such information, even without a specific request.

Unfortunately, in many cases, relying on your spouse’s good will in adhering to this rule is not enough. If informal requests for information under this rule go unanswered, or you do not feel confident you are receiving accurate information, a good starting place for identifying assets is your personal tax returns.

Your returns can be of assistance in identifying property and accounts, or assets sold during a given tax period. If your spouse is not forthcoming with copies of returns, or you believe the returns produced are not the actual returns filed with the IRS, you can request copies of the returns directly from the Internal Revenue Service. Not only personal tax returns, but any corporate and partnership returns can be reviewed, as well.

How The Court Can Help

Court issued subpoenas are also frequently used as a method of gathering information. A subpoena, listing information or documents you want to receive, can be issued to a person or entity not a part of your lawsuit. The recipient of the subpoena has ten business days under court rules to produce the information requested. Although sometimes the entity will request more time depending on the volume of information sought.

Typical examples are subpoenas to a financial institution or employer. Even if you do not know the exact accounts which exist, a subpoena issued to a financial institution listing your spouse’s name and social security number will be sufficient in most cases, to obtain information about all accounts on which that social security number or name appears. Subpoenas to employers typically request information such as pay history, terms of employment, bonus information, and employee benefit information, including retirement, pension, employee savings, and stock option accounts.

Other Options

There are other discovery tools available to you when trying to find out financial information. These include:

  • Interrogatories (written questions to your spouse)
  • Requests for Production of Documents (written requests for the production of certain documents)
  • Requests for Admissions (written questions to your spouse asking he or she to admit certain facts as true)
  • Depositions (oral question and answer sessions at which your attorney asks questions of your spouse, an expert, or sometimes a third party in the presence of a court reporter, from whom a written transcript of the questions and answers can be obtained).

In cases where a spouse is purposefully trying to hide assets or has engaged in pre-divorce planning, the hiring of outside experts might be necessary in order to obtain the information you seek. Private investigators, computer forensic specialists, and experts in asset tracing are among those you may want to hire.

Making sure you feel you have obtained all information material to your case is important. Only then can you assess your settlement options, obtain advice from your attorney as to a likely outcome if you proceed to trial, and prepare for trial if a settlement cannot be reached. Providing your attorney with any information you have regarding your assets is essential to your case.

Contact us at Hallier Stearns PLC for more information on how to best uncover your financial assets to ensure that you are receiving your rightful share in your divorce settlement.