In many (or even most) marriages, spouses take on roles over time. Wife handles the lawn and husband manages vehicle maintenance. He takes the kids to school, but she picks them up in the afternoon. You get the idea—divide and conquer. It’s a normal part of relationships. Sometimes, however, where one spouse manages all/most of the couple’s finances, it leaves the other party in the dark about the household budget, what assets are where, etc. And if the couple is divorcing, that information gap sometimes turns into fear.
If you are in this position, it may be comforting to know that as part of a divorce proceeding, we can (and nearly always do) request financial information and documents from the other side. This process is called “discovery.” In this process, each party (upon request) provides the information needed to arrive at an equitable division of marital assets and debt.
In Minnesota, there are 2 basic types of discovery: informal and formal. Informal discovery usually consists of a simple e-mail or letter to your spouse or their counsel. The communication sets forth the requested information, in writing. Informal discovery is generally an easier, cheaper, and perhaps “friendlier” way of getting the job of discovery done. But, if one or both parties is not compliant, then we proceed to our next option—formal discovery.
Formal discovery usually involves requests that are more detailed, comprehensive, and formal. Formal discovery must be completed on certain deadlines. One major benefit to formal discovery is that, if the other side refuses to provide relevant information, we have the ability to ask the court to intervene and require the noncompliant party to provide the information. If the information still is not provided, there are negative consequences. The failure can be interpreted against the noncompliant party at trial and will most likely preclude them from making certain arguments to the court.
While less common in divorce than in other legal cases, subpoenas and depositions can also be used to secure relevant information and documents. For example, if your spouse refuses to produce their bank statements, your attorney can serve a subpoena on the financial institution and require it to provide you the requested records. A deposition could be used to have your spouse’s business associate provide testimony (under oath, but outside of court) regarding their business dealings. Depositions, especially, are very expensive, so generally the information being sought should hold significant monetary value to make the process worthwhile.
Discovery is a vital part of the divorce process. Especially where it was your spouse in the driver’s seat regarding marital finances, obtaining information in discovery—whether informal or formal—allows you to get a clear picture of important financial issues. It can also help identify any suspicious transactions that may warrant more investigation or, perhaps the involvement of a financial expert.
If you have further questions about the process of divorce and other family-law proceedings in Minnesota, please contact Streit Law LLC today for a free consultation or to retain Angela. Visit www.streitlaw.net or call 651-237-3815.