In a divorce, if there are things that we need to uncover in order to proceed with the filing, that is call the divorce discovery process. This phase can cause a lot of emotions to stir between you and your spouse.
The discovery process is what is sounds like: spouses “discover” financial information about each other, exchanging tax returns, bank statements, and documentation of assets. Through the discovery phase attorneys on both sides try to get the fullest picture of the finances and assets of your marriage.
There are no limits on what you can “discover.” You can even “discover” things like retirements accounts and request detailed letters from employers on bonus structures. Through a process of “interrogatories” – questions asked and answered under oath – you can ask about spending and assets as well as lifestyle (if alimony is involved), and questions pertaining to custody.
Divorce Discovery Process | Spouse May Be Hiding Assets
This situation can lead to very difficult conversations. Remember, though, that if you think your spouse is hiding assets, or misrepresenting his or her investments or compensation structure, you have a legal right to any information you request. In some cases, you may need to issue a subpoena to attain that information.
Spouses can hide or misrepresent assets in several ways. One spouse might have uninvested stock options. One spouse might own a small, closely held business where revenues are unclear. Although it’s important to let your attorney know if you have any suspicions as soon as possible, you may end up needing a CPA or forensic accountant to examine all taxes and bank accounts.
Divorce Discovery Process | What Happens Next
Clients are often exhausted at the end of the discovery phase. Before you settle and sign, however, you should go back to your original divorce complaint. What relief did you ask of the court?
If you asked for an equitable distribution of assets, does the proposed settlement agreement meet those terms?
If you have younger children, does the settlement agreement account for the changes in their lifestyle, education, and health that will occur over time? Many divorced couples end up returning to their attorneys to re-litigate things like tutors, SAT prep, driving lessons and car insurance, college, and orthodontia. A New Jersey family lawyer can help you think through these questions in advance and get you a “one and done” settlement.
If you have any questions about the divorce discovery process, please call our New Jersey divorce lawyer today to get a free consultation.