My Spouse Controlled Our Financial Matters. How Can I Get a Fair Shake in My Divorce?

In most marriages, there is one spouse who handles most of the household finances.  In a number of other marriages, the spouses keep their finances separated from one another. (As an aside, I think this practice is a mistake for couples.  I find it just makes it easier for people to take the step towards a divorce when the finances are already "divided.")  In either of these situations, it can be difficult for the other spouse to know what assets exist and whether he/she is getting an equitable portion of marital property.  While your attorney can secure most, if not all, of the information needed, you will also be vital in collecting documents to support your case.

Once your divorce has been filed, your attorney will proceed with a process called discovery. Discovery, in the legal sense, is a set of pretrial devices that can be used by one party to obtain facts and information about the case from the other party in order to assist the party's preparation for trial.  Through discovery, your attorney can ask your spouse to provide documents and information need to prepare your case.

Additionally, in Kentucky, the Family Court Rules of Practice and Procedure require the parties to exchange both preliminary and final verified financial disclosure forms which includes a statement of complete income, expenses, debts and assets.  In Illinois, Supreme Court Rule 213 established a set of standard matrimonial interrogatories that can be used and issued to the other party.  These resources will provide you and your attorney with a statement of assets and obligations from your spouse.

You also, with a little leg work, track down a great deal of information on your own.  First and foremost, ideally before the divorce is even filed, you should secure copies of all financial documents in the home as soon as possible.  This would include bank statements, credit card statements, loan documents, etc.  If it has a dollar sign on it, you want a copy of it.  You can also request copies of documents from other financial institutions.  You are entitled to a copy of any tax return you have signed.  Simply complete and file IRS form 4506.  You should also be able to get copies of your bank statements, at least the most recent, from your local institution.  You can also get statements from your credit card company if you are listed on the account.  If you know what organization handled your spouse's investments, your attorney can subpoena information from that organization.

By working closely with your attorney, you can rebuild the picture of your household finances and discover what your spouse may be hiding.  Just because you are trying to get a fresh start, does not mean you have to start over.

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