In some marriages, one spouse might have control or knowledge of the finances while the other spouse does not. When marriages like this end in a divorce, the settlement can be complicated when the dominant party/(“in-spouse”) doesn’t disclose all separate and community assets. In such cases, lawyers can obtain financial information through a process known as “discovery.”
Before the court divides assets, the process of discovery is very important in order to get a complete financial picture of the marriage. Even if no foul-play is suspected, it’s imperative to have all marital, separate, and comingled property accounted for. In essence, lawyers use five methods of discovery to obtain financial information:
1.) Document demands – Attorneys can ask for a variety of specific financial documents from the opposing party: bank statements, tax returns, loan applications, property titles, capital gains reports, etc.
2.) “Interrogatories” and “requests for admission” – An attorney can deliver an interrogatory, which asks the opposing party questions related to a dispute. Or, attorneys may propound requests for admission, which ask the opposing party to “admit” to certain facts. Both are sometimes used when one party suspects, but has no proof, that his/her spouse has certain valuable hidden assets.
3.) Inspection demands – This method of discovery requires one party to reveal assets hidden from physical view, such as items in a safety deposit box, an expensive wine collection, or fine art hidden at a third-party location.
4.) Testimony under Oath – If there is incomplete information or other parties are involved in the finances, an attorney may ask for oral testimony known as a “deposition.” In a deposition, the court records statements by spouses (under oath), and could include witness statements made by family members, friends, and/or business partners.
5.) Subpoenas – Attorneys can also use subpoenas to view retirement plans, bank and non-bank records, as well as call upon experts.
No matter what side you’re on in a divorce settlement, it is crucial to have an attorney skilled in the process of discovery. The process is complicated as there are numerous procedures that an attorney must navigate, and a fair settlement under the law is best achieved with the help of a skilled attorney.
Castleton Law Group
17800 Castleton Street, Suite 630, City of Industry, California 91748