Exchanging Financial Information During a Divorce

Olivia and Oscar are undergoing a contentious divorce in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court and are encountering issues exchanging financial information. Oscar is a partner in an accounting firm which is local and privately held. Olivia’s attorney has asked Oscar for his most recent K-1 form, which listed his income from the partnership the previous year. Oscar is refusing to provide them. Olivia wonders if there is a way to ensure that she will receive the documents, which she knows are important for her alimony claim.

Chances are, Oscar will need to turn over the documents to Olivia during the process of discovery, which is the exchange of information between the parties pre-trial. According to the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure, the parties are entitled to “any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party[.]” [1] Because the requested documents are not protected by privilege (such as attorney-prepared memoranda) and are relevant to the matter, Oscar will need to turn them over to Olivia after she sends him a properly drafted request to produce them.

The Probate and Family Courts provide for automatic exchange of some information between parties to a divorce action. Within 45 days of serving the divorce complaint, the parties are required to file with the Court and to send to the other party a financial statement. In addition, each party is entitled to the other side’s pay stubs, as well as tax returns and supporting schedules and documents for the last three years (unless they were filed jointly).

The financial statement requires each party to fill in information about a slew of financial matters, including: personal information, income, weekly expenses, assets, and liabilities. For parties who make less than $75,000 annually, a short form financial statement is required; for those who make more than that figure, a long form is required.

In addition to the above, a party may serve upon the opposing party a request to produce other types of relevant documents. Some examples include the last three years’ worth of bank statements, financial statements, profit-and-loss statements, and copies of loan and mortgage applications.

Should Oscar refuse to cooperate with the discovery rules, Olivia may file a motion to compel cooperation, by which the Court may order Oscar to turn over the requested documents. The rules also provide for sanctions, such as fines to be paid by the non-cooperative party.

If you have any questions about divorce or related domestic relations issues, you may schedule a free consultation with our office. Call 978-225-9030 during regular business hours or complete a contact form here, and we will get back to you at our earliest opportunity.

[1] Mass. R. Dom. Rel. P. 26(b)(1)