Going through a divorce is a massive financial transaction, akin to splitting a corporation into two. Depending on how long you and your spouse have been married, you’ll likely have financial ties in real property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit card debts, all of which you must unwind during your divorce.
Dividing your marital estate requires gathering comprehensive information about you and your spouse’s assets and debts, some of which you might not have access to. Courts in many states require spouses to make mandatory disclosures to the other spouse as part of any divorce, to ensure sharing of information to facilitate the process of property division.
The Reason for Mandatory Disclosures
Prior to the existence of mandatory disclosure rules, divorcing spouses would have to serve each other with formal discovery requests to obtain documents and information relevant to the case. However, certain information, such as about assets, debts, and income are relevant to virtually every divorce case, so requiring this additional step for couples wasted time and resources for parties. Also, spouses navigating the divorce process without an attorney may not know the proper mechanisms to request these documents, as it typically requires some legal knowledge that isn’t always easy to find. For these reasons, many jurisdictions now have rules requiring couples to turn over certain documents and information in every divorce case.
How Mandatory Disclosures Work
Not every state requires mandatory disclosures. Inside some of the states that don’t have laws regarding mandatory disclosures, some counties may require them while others don’t—check with a local family law attorney to find out what rules apply in your jurisdiction.
In a divorce case, it’s typical to make formal requests for certain financial information so each side can make informed choices during the settlement negotiation. States have mandatory disclosure rules to reduce the need to formally request documents that will clearly be needed in almost every divorce case, like tax returns, account statements, and paystubs.
What Types of Information Will I Need for the Mandatory Disclosures?
Mandatory disclosures may come in multiple forms, but in each case, you’ll be required to provide specific financial information. While the title of these disclosures may vary from state to state (for example, in Georgia, they are called Mandated Interrogatories), they require spouses to answer questions and/or list information.
Spouses must list each of their assets and debts, and the values for each. Spouses may also need to list their work history, along with supervisor names, job titles, and salaries at each job during the marriage. You may also have to provide your educational history, with institutions attended and degrees or certificates received.
If you own property that you believe to be your separate property, as opposed to marital property, you may need to list those items, as well as an explanation as to why you believe it to be your separate property. You may also need to provide information about all of your insurance policies (auto, home, life, health, and disability), along with the name of the insurance company and policy numbers.
In a divorce with children, you should expect to have to disclose certain child-related expenses, such as private school tuition, childcare costs, camps, and extracurricular activity expenses. In some jurisdictions, you may also be required to prepare an affidavit for the court explaining in detail your assets, debts, and expenses. For example, in Georgia, each spouse in a contested divorce case must prepare a “domestic relations financial affidavit.” Each spouse must create a monthly budget by category, including mortgage, electric, gas, and cellphone.
You may also be required to provide documents, such as your last few years of tax returns, a current mortgage balance, and recent bank and retirement account statements. The required documents you’ll have to disclose to your spouse will vary depending on your jurisdiction, but a sample list of documents you may need to produce include the following:
- all federal and state tax returns for the last three years, both personal and business-related
- W-2, 1099, and K-1 forms for the past year
- a year ending paystub for the last calendar year, and a recent paystub
- any other evidence of earned income for the past calendar year
- documentation showing social security payments, disability payments, and retirement benefits received for the past year
- loan applications and financial statements for the past three years
- premarital agreements or postnuptial agreements
- documentation of expenses incurred on behalf of any children
- court orders for either spouse to pay or receive alimony or child support from previous relationships
- proof of life insurance for the benefit of any minor children, and
- business documents, such as accounts receivable and accounts payable, balance sheets, and profit and loss statements.
Preparing mandatory disclosures may seem like a lot of work, but the information required by them is what you’d need to gather anyway in order to be able to make informed decisions about settlement possibilities. A family law attorney can help you streamline the process of gathering documents and information and can let you know the most important items to focus on. Whether your jurisdiction requires mandatory disclosures or not, it’s always best to consult an experienced family law attorney when going through divorce.