Financial disclosures: What to do when a spouse provides misleading financial disclosures in a divorce case

By: David Wilkinson
Last Update: March 16, 2017

Every state has statutory provisions requiring full and accurate financial disclosures by both parties to a divorce case. Every state also has punishment mechanisms in place to ensure accuracy and to prevent parties from providing misleading or false information.  Of course, those mechanisms vary from state to state and vary in punishments.  Parties going through a divorce case should be cognizant of their state law regarding financial disclosures in their case, but they should understand their options no matter where they are litigating or mediating.<

If you suspect that your spouse has not provided accurate and complete financial disclosures in your divorce, such as incomplete income information or misleading asset disclosures, you should first initiate discovery.  Discovery is a set of tools available to all litigants in every court case to gain information directly from the other party or from third parties.  Usually, self-represented litigants have more difficulty issuing discovery demands because they do not know the specific rules governing when and how discovery can be initiated.  Self-represented litigants often must seek court orders to issue some kinds of discovery whereas attorneys have the authority to issue discovery directly without a court order.  Thus, the first step should be to contact an attorney to help with your discovery plan, even if you hire an attorney on a “limited scope” basis to just help propound discovery.

The easiest and most effective discovery demands include demands for production of documents (requiring your spouse to give you documents, computer hard drives, account statements, financial records, etc.), taking depositions (requiring anyone with relevant information to answer questions under oath), and sending subpoenas (requiring third parties to produce documents).  If your spouse or the third party do not provide the relevant information requested you should consider filing a motion to compel, which is a request that the court order compliance with your requests.

Next, consider hiring a qualified investigator to assist you.  Investigators experienced in divorce matters can conduct asset searches, evaluate representations of income, and provide “boots on the ground” probes into your spouse’s claims.  For example, we have used investigators often to prove that cash businesses earn more than the operating spouse claims they earn.

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