Financial Assets Discovery in Divorce Cases:
Often times in a divorce case, you may not have a full understanding of your spouse’s financial condition. Here, I’ll explain briefly the discovery process and how you can protect yourself if your spouse tries to hide assets.
When filing for divorce in Maryland, regulations allow you to conduct what is called discovery. The most common forms of discovery are Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. Interrogatories are written questions that your attorney will draft and send to your spouse or your spouse’s attorney. The Maryland divorce and discovery process rules allow you to propound as many as thirty interrogatories.
Requests for Production of Documents is exactly as it sounds: the request for production of documents from your spouse relevant to your case. There is no limit to the amount of document requests you may propound. Your spouse must answer the interrogatories and produce documents to your Request for Production of Documents within thirty days and must sign an oath affirming under the penalty of perjury that the responses are true and accurate to the best of their knowledge, information, and belief.
If your case involves financial matters, such as alimony or division of property, your interrogatories and document requests will seek information regarding your spouse’s income, assets, and liabilities. Some documents that your experienced Maryland divorce attorney may request include tax returns, pay stubs, financial statements, business records, bank statements, credit card statements, and retirement statements. If your case involves custody of a minor child, your interrogatories and document requests may also seek information regarding your spouse’s parenting ability, living accommodations, and matters pertaining to the best interest of the child.
Another common discovery tactic is to depose your spouse. In a deposition, your spouse will generally come to your attorney’s office whereby your Maryland divorce attorney will have an opportunity to ask your spouse questions about matters pertaining to your case. Your spouse’s divorce attorney will also be present, as will be a court reporter who will transcribe the deposition.
The deposition process allows your Maryland divorce lawyer to ask your spouse questions about his or her financial condition, assets, and any other matters relevant to your case. Your spouse will be sworn in by the court reporter and will testify under oath. If any contradictions exist between your spouse’s Answers to Interrogatories or document production and his or her answers at the deposition, your attorney may be able to press your spouse for clarification. Your attorney may also subpoena your spouse to bring additional documents to the deposition.
Another discovery tool, although lesser utilized, is called a “Request for Admissions”. In your Request for Admissions, you ask your spouse to simply admit or deny an allegation. So for example, you might ask “Admit that you have a retirement account with X”, or “admit that you earn income from Y”. It should be noted that if the responding party does not respond to your Request for Admissions within thirty days, they are deemed admitted.
In addition to the aforementioned methods, your Maryland divorce attorney may also subpoena directly from the source your spouse’s financial records, including but not limited to bank statements, credit card statements, retirement statements, and pay information. The institution holding these records is required to produce records responsive to the subpoena, unless your spouse or the institution files an objection. An experienced divorce attorney in Maryland can help you determine which records are worth subpoenaing, since many institutions charge you for producing documents responsive to subpoenas.
If you think your spouse is lying or hiding assets elsewhere, your divorce attorney may be able to procure the services of a private investigator to conduct an asset search to determine whether your spouse has assets other than what he or she has disclosed.
Navigating the divorce process in Maryland can be difficult and complex, and an area such as this, the discovery process for assets, is a strong example of that. You should always consult an experienced Maryland divorce attorney if you are involved in a divorce proceeding or contemplating filing for divorce.
Call our office at 240.395.1418 if you have any questions about this issue or other related issues pertaining to filing for divorce in Maryland, and we’ll be happy to provide you with more information and schedule a free consultation.