In a divorce, spouses have to split their marital assets and decide issues of spousal and child support. To make a fair determination, both sides have to fully disclose their current and past finances. This is true regardless of whether the parties are negotiating a settlement on their own or a judge is deciding the matter. Typically, each side will request records from the other, but a question that frequently arises is how much information can be requested. Do you have the right to your spouse’s past financial records for an unlimited number of years?
Spouses have the right to access financial records in divorce related to the marriage including bank, retirement and investment accounts, loans, credit card balances, insurance policies, wills, trusts, deeds/title certificates, tax returns, business records and other relevant documents. This right applies to documents from the beginning of the marriage up until the date a divorce action is filed regardless of how many years have passed. However, courts recognize the need to balance those rights against the burden of producing old records, including the time and expense involved and the availability of such documents.
In most cases, it is best to start by requesting the last 3 years of financial records. If there is evidence of misappropriation or waste of marital assets, then you can ask for additional information. Justifying a request for more records is important because a judge will look at whether you are being reasonable. Unfortunately, in some cases, a party can become abusive and predatory in demanding documents. The court will look more favorably on a party that demonstrates that there is a valid reason for asking for old records.
If your spouse refuses to provide financial records, you can also subpoena a third party with relevant financial information such as accountants, financial advisors, employers and financial institutions. However, many financial institutions do not keep records for more than 7 years. Smaller institutions may keep older ones but it still may be time-consuming and expensive to obtain them.
If you are considering divorce, start gathering financial records and contact an attorney for advice.
Working with an experienced matrimonial attorney can help ensure you get the documents you need and achieve a positive outcome in your case. Contact us to assist you in getting the best result possible.