How Do I Get Access to my Family’s Financial Records to Prepare for Divorce?

If you have been the financial record keeper in your family, you probably have a fair bit of information about your finances. You have probably had access to things like tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and net worth statements. Even if, after you and your husband separated, he took the copies with him, you still probably have a pretty good idea of where you are financially. That’s helpful.

If you haven’t been the financial record keeper in your family, you may have a harder time getting started. In most cases, I recommend that, before you leave the marital home, you make copies of as many of these types of documents as you can lay your hands on. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, because a lot of times when a couple separates, one party takes all the documents so that the other can’t use them.

For a lot of things, you can call the company up and request another copy of the statements. You can call your mortgage company, credit card company, bank, or cell phone provider and ask for duplicates of these records. It may take a few days and they may charge you for copies, especially if you ask for a lot, but it’s usually worth the time and expense to get a more complete picture of your finances.

For anything that you can’t manage to get copies of yourself, we can always request that your husband provide them in discovery. Obviously, it would be foolish to move forward with a separation agreement or a litigated divorce without having any idea what your finances are. We’re going to want to know as much about you as possible, and that definitely includes knowing how much money you will need to start over after your divorce is finalized.

It’s often better (and cheaper) if you can get a hold of these documents yourself. That’s not always possible, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you don’t come into your attorney’s office with copies of tax returns from every single year you were married and every credit card bill you’ve ever received. Whatever you don’t have and can’t get, we can request that he provide to us. (And by “request,” I don’t mean ask nicely—we ask for it, and if he doesn’t provide it, we take him to court to force him to respond.)

Whether or not you’ve had access to the financial records in your family, you’ll be able to have access to these things for the sake of your divorce. Get them yourself if you can, but if not you can always try to call the companies themselves or, if all else fails, have your attorney request these documents for you in discovery.

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