Separating your assets and debts during a divorce requires complete financial disclosure. Therefore, New Jersey divorce laws require each party to prepare and submit financial documents to ensure full disclosure during the divorce process.
The divorce disclosure and discovery process begins with a Case Information Statement.
Filing a Family Part Case Information Statement
A Case Information Statement is a detailed financial statement.
Documents that you will need to complete the form include, but might not be limited to:
- Tax returns
- Life insurance policies
- Pay advices or other proof of income
- Account statements for all debts and assets
- Bank account statements
- Real estate records
- Bankruptcy or foreclosure records
- Business statements
- Vehicle titles and registrations
- Retirement accounts
- Statements for credit cards
- Property appraisals
You must report your income and your partner’s income. The information is highly detailed and requires you to report all aspects of your income, including deductions, claimed dependents, bonuses, commissions, stock options, and other details for all sources of income.
The form also requires you to report your expenses as a family (joint lifestyle) and your current expenses. The purpose is to detail the standard of living you established during your marriage versus your current lifestyle.
There is also a section detailing the family assets and liabilities. You have the opportunity to state that you should not be liable for certain debts. You may also claim that certain assets should be exempt from marital property distribution.
It is crucial that you work closely with your divorce attorney when preparing the Case Information Statement. You must certify that all the financial information contained in the statement is accurate. Individuals may be subject to court punishment for providing willfully false information.
Why Are Financial Disclosures Important?
Financial disclosures impact several elements of your divorce. For example, the court uses the financial information from the parties to calculate child support. The financial disclosures may also be used to calculate spousal maintenance and property division.
Therefore, both parties must provide complete and honest disclosures. Because some spouses may try to hide assets or income to avoid paying spousal support or dividing property equitably, there are rules and laws regarding discovery during a divorce.
What Happens During the Discovery Process for a Divorce Case?
The Rules of Civil Procedure govern the discovery process for a family law matter. Discovery is the process of exchanging and gathering information in preparation for going to court. The Rules of Civil Procedure give an opposing party several ways of gathering information and evidence that the other party might be trying to conceal.
Essential tools used during the discovery process of a divorce case include:
Depositions are sworn testimony outside of a courtroom. A court reporter places the person under oath and provides a word-by-word transcription of the questions and answers during the deposition.
The attorney requesting the deposition asks the questions. However, because the parties are not in a courtroom, the other attorney does not have the opportunity to cross-examine the person. Therefore, the opposing party and attorney may only listen to the deposition.
In a divorce action, the attorney may depose several parties to gather information about the case. Depositions may be given by:
- Each party involved in the divorce
- Expert witnesses
- Teachers, coaches, psychologists, and other witnesses who have information that could impact parenting time or child custody
- Financial experts and appraisers
- And other individuals with information related to the case
A deposition can be used to gather information that could lead to concealed assets. It may also provide information that could be used in a custody case to prove the other parent is unfit. The use of depositions during a divorce depends on the specifics of the case.
The person who schedules a deposition is responsible for the costs. Therefore, some parties may choose less costly forms of discovery at first.
Interrogatories are a list of questions the parties pose to each other. The questions must relate to the case. However, because the questions are answered under oath, interrogatories are a simple way to see what evidence and information the opposing party has to present in court.
Request for Production of Documents
Requests for Production of Documents consist of a list of documents the opposing party must produce. The documents requested must be related to the divorce or issues related to the divorce, such as child custody, spousal support, property division, or child support.
The opposing party must respond to the Request for Production of Documents under oath. That means the party certifies that the responses are true and accurate. A party might object to a request. In that case, the judge would decide whether they had to produce the documents.
Request for Admissions
Requests for Admissions are a list of statements provided to the opposing party. The opposing party is required to admit or deny each statement. Requests for Admissions can reduce the number of disputed issues by placing specific facts on the record.
If a party is unsure or does not have the information to respond to the request, the party may state so in the response. However, the responses are under oath, so parties must be cautious not to make false statements that could cause them trouble later in the case.
Physical or Mental Health Examinations
During a divorce case, a parent may allege that the other parent is unfit. As a result, the court can order mental health examinations for the parents and the children. The court may also order physical examinations in cases involving allegations of domestic violence or child abuse.
Subpoenas are court orders compelling a party to provide testimony or documents. Parties may use subpoenas to obtain records that the opposing party may be unwilling to provide. For example, if a spouse is hiding financial accounts, the court might issue a subpoena to the bank for copies of account statements.
Why Is Discovery Important in a Divorce?
Discovery is an integral part of the divorce process. Through the discovery process, an attorney can gather information and evidence that may be used during settlement negotiations. In addition, in contested matters, depositions allow attorneys to determine what information witnesses may present in court and assess the credibility of witnesses.
In some cases, the information obtained during discovery encourages the other party to settle instead of litigating the matter in court. Attorneys use the information obtained during discovery to help them form strategies that give their clients the best chance of receiving their desired outcome.
Contact Our New Jersey Divorce Lawyer for a Free Case Review
We understand that you may have numerous questions about the divorce process in New Jersey. If you are contemplating a divorce, we are here to help. Contact our law firm to schedule a free case review with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer.