Question: My wife and I are going through a divorce. We are trying to handle it without attorneys, but my wife has not provided me with anything showing how much money she has in her bank accounts, or if she had gotten any new bank accounts. When I ask her about it, she is evasive, and it has me thinking that she is either spending money in a manner she doesn’t want me to know about or she has accounts that I don’t know about. Is there a way for me to see my wife’s banking records?
Answer: Yes. Each party to a divorce suit may obtain documents from the other party by requesting them. Documents requested may include anything relevant to the parties, their children or their property. Upon proper request, parties must provide copies or make originals available for inspection by their spouse or their spouse’s attorney. The parties’ banking records for both joint or individual banking accounts are fair game in a divorce proceedings.
Records of a corporation or business partnership or of a spouse held jointly with a third party may also be obtained. Some records that one party must provide to the other may be required under local court rules. For instance, parties are expected to provide their spouse copies of their tax returns, copies of all of the their bank records and copies of their paycheck stubs or proof of income.
When parties separate and divorce, their property is divided. While the divorce suit is pending, the court may order each party to pay specific debts or obligations of the parties or of one of them. Because it is common for married parties to pool their incomes when buying a home or cars or other items, it can be very difficult when a need arises for each of them to maintain their own separate home and living expenses. That may leave little or no money left over to pay bills and debts.
Income earned by the parties during the marriage is the property of both spouses, so a court may distribute the joint income of the parties during the divorce suit in a manner to balance living expenses, debts or obligations. After a divorce is finalized, the court may not distribute a party’s separate income except for child support or post divorce spousal maintenance, both of which are limited in time and amount. Because income earned during marriage is community property, each party has a right to see records regarding income and expenditures, regardless of whether or not the records are in both names or just one of the parties.
If a party fails to provide copies of documents or to make originals available for inspection, a court may impose sanctions upon the offending spouse, which may include a monetary penalty and in some cases, the loss of property from one party to the other. Even if a spouse creates a new bank account while a divorce suit is pending, the money in that account is subject to the rules regarding turning over documents to the other party, called discovery. A spouse that hides assets by opening banking accounts and failing to disclose to the other party information about that account may be found guilty of committing fraud.
This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice. Direct questions to Ask the Lawyer to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Facebook page for the Dalhart Texan.