- Getting Divorced: Preparing for the Discovery Process
Getting Divorced: Preparing for the Discovery Process
Discovery is the process of collecting information in a lawsuit through a variety of means, such as with answers to interrogatories signed under oath, requests for a party to produce specific classes of documents, requests for admissions in order to confirm facts that are not in dispute, and subpoenas to third-parties (i.e., individuals or entities that are not parties to the lawsuit) to appear to answer questions or produce documents, or both. Obtaining the relevant information is a critical part of a divorce, whether you intend to mediate, collaborate or litigate. Discovery is the process by which information is obtained in the context of litigation.
In order to determine what assets have accumulated during the marriage, and the amount of each party’s individual income and expenses for purposes of establishing support (or not), getting your financial house in order prior to undertaking the process of divorce makes a lot of sense. In so doing, the process becomes less daunting once underway when there are deadlines looming during litigation.
In many cases, where both spouses are well informed about each other’s finances and there is an attempt to try to work out details and move forward toward a settlement, informal discovery often takes place prior to the filing of a complaint for divorce, such as when mediating or engaging in a collaborative process. Whether you will be moving forward in a formal or informal way, pulling together three to five years of statements from your checking account, savings accounts, brokerage statements, retirement accounts and credit card bills is a good start. Three to five years of tax returns, business and personal, is also recommended. You should also run a credit report on yourself to confirm it is accurate and to confirm there are no debts of which you might be unaware. You are entitled to an annual free credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.
Even if you do not have the information on hand, much of the information you seek from your accounts can be found on-line if you set up an on-line account. There is also the option of requesting statements directly from financial institutions. So long as accounts are in your name, there is no doubt that you are entitled to the information. Moreover, many financial institutions will provide you with electronic copies of statements. Obtaining the files electronically will save time and money in copying and printing the data.
If you do not have access to jointly filed tax returns, the tax preparer has an obligation to give you a copy upon request. If you do not want your spouse to know that you are seeking the information, you can request copies of returns directly from Internal Revenue Service. You can even have the tax return sent to your lawyer or accountant. You can find the information online.
The added benefit of pulling together this information is the ability to review your daily, weekly, monthly and annual expenses. Such an analysis will enable you to determine your needs as you move towards a new life without your spouse. If there is a business that will be valued all of the same information related to the business will be required in addition to corporate documents that shed light on the formation of the entity and its structure.
Discovery is a necessary evil in the dissolution of a marriage. However, taking control of the situation by preparing in advance for the process is both enlightening and empowering.
If you are considering a divorce, or are in need of legal assistance for a family law matter please contact Renée Bronfein Ades at email@example.com.