A divorce often covers several aspects other than ending a marriage and, if applicable, determining custody and a parenting time schedule for minor children. Often, it is critical to determine which assets your spouse holds, including business interests, real estate, bank accounts, and retirement funds. Failing to locate each marital asset and determining how much is owed to you means that you can be leaving money on the table during your divorce. The same is true for marital debts – it is important to determine whether your spouse incurred any financial obligations in your name or that affects the value of any property you may have an interest in. Thankfully, Michigan Court Rules provide for several options to determine which assets, debts, and money your spouse may hold.
What is a Verified Financial Information Form?
The first step in discovering marital property and debt is for the parties to exchange verified financial information forms. The Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Office provides a Verified Financial Information Form for the parties to exchange. This document is not filed with the court to preserve personal privacy and security. Unless otherwise waived by both parties, this financial information must be exchanged within 28 days after the defendant-spouse serves their first initial pleading, such as an answer to a complaint for divorce. Importantly, a party who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking by the other party may omit any information that may identify the location of where the victim works, lives, or where a minor child is located.
The information requested in the Verified Financial Information Form includes:
- Current or past employment history, wages, and benefits.
- All monthly income from other sources, such as trust funds, interest payments, dividends, unemployment, and rental income.
- Real property and financing information for each property the spouse has an interest in.
- List of financial accounts the spouse has an interest in, such as bank or credit union accounts, stocks, annuities, IRAs, and 401(k)s.
- Pensions and life insurance policies.
- All motorized vehicles that each spouse has an interest in, including boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles.
- All personal property, such as jewelry, collectibles, guns, and tools.
- All credit cards, personal loans, and student loans.
There are also several documents that must be produced with the Verified Financial Information Form, including:
- Four most recent paystubs, or;
- If self-employed, a copy of the three most recent business tax returns; and
- Last three statements of all debts, including credit cards, personal loans, and student loans.
Other Discovery Options
Under Michigan Court Rule 3.206(C)(2), the Verified Financial Information does not preclude other discovery. Thus, a party may submit other discovery requests to the other spouse and other third parties. A party may serve the other spouse with several different types of discovery requests, including interrogatories, requests for production of documents, as well as discovery subpoenas to non-parties.
- Interrogatories: Interrogatories, which are written questions that the opposing spouse must answer under oath, can be used to ask your spouse questions about information not already provided in the Verified Financial Information Form, such as when certain property was acquired, why certain debts were incurred, or additional question regarding employment history and income. Interrogatories are typically limited to 25 questions in most civil court cases; however, in domestic relations matters such as divorces, may serve up to 35 interrogatories to the other party.
- Requests for Production of Documents: A party may also serve the other spouse with requests for the production of documents, which may include titles to vehicles, appraisals performed on real or personal property, and additional banking or tax-related records. It may also be necessary to request additional paystubs from previous employment, insurance policies, or asset purchase documents. While a spouse may have some of these records, a third-party subpoena may be used to gather additional assets, income, or debt-related information that your spouse may not have in his or her possession.
- Subpoenas: Michigan Court Rule 2.305 allows a party to serve a subpoena to a non-party for a deposition, production or inspection of documents, inspection of tangible things, or entry to land. This discovery tool can be useful for having your spouse’s employer, accountant, financial institution, or other people or businesses provide information relating to your spouse’s assets, income, and debt.
Get Legal Guidance When You Need It
Knowing how and where to locate your spouse’s assets, income, and debts will greatly affect the property division during your divorce. This information can also be relevant and highly useful for calculating both child support and spousal support. If you believe that your spouse may have assets, incomes, or debts that you are unaware of, contact Grewal Law PLLC for a consultation regarding your divorce and the best path through it.