The Discovery Process in Massachusetts Divorce

When deciding to pursue a divorce in Massachusetts, certain processes must be completed by each party in an effort to fairly disclose financial information about marital assets and debts. Financial disclosure procedures play an integral part in the divorce process after a Complaint for Divorce has been filed. Below is a summary of some of the aspects of financial disclosure.

Financial Statement Long Form
If your salary exceeds $75,000 a year in gross income, you must complete the Financial Statement Long Form. This Court-created form provides the Court and your spouse with information about your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. The long form is extensive, and it will take some time to properly fill out. This form will require you to provide proof of income from a variety of sources. For instance you must disclose base salary information including any overtime you preformed, tips you made, bonuses paid, or commissions from sales. The form requires that W-2’s and 1099’s are attached. In addition, information must be provided regarding self-employment, funds from disability or Welfare, and interest made on investment accounts. The Long Form will also require you to disclose your debts such as business expenses and deductions for household utilities and health insurance.

Financial Statement Short Form
The Short Form is required by the court when you earn under $75,000 a year in gross income. Like the long form, the short form provides your spouse and the Court with information about your income, expenses, assets and liabilities. The Short form requires less detail than the long form. However, it will ask the individual to provide proof of income such as W-2 forms or 1099 forms. The individual must also disclose any additional income such as inheritance or interest on any savings/investment accounts. In additions to income information, the individual must also disclose household expenses which will be subtracted from the gross income.

The 410 Rule
The 410 Rule applies to both parties. In the state of Massachusetts, the divorce applicants are required under Rule 410 to disclose specific financial information, including the past three years of tax returns, bank account and investment account statements, and retirement account statements, your prior four paystubs, information about available health insurance, and documentation related to any mortgage loans applied for in the past three years. If the divorce is uncontested, the couple has the opportunity to waive this disclosure rule.

Investigatory Tools for Discovery:
Rule 410 and Financial Statements are mandatory when spouses are involved in a contested divorce. There are other methods to obtain financial information in a divorce proceeding, including the following:

  • Interrogatories: Each spouse is entitled to present the opposite spouse with questions to be answered under oath. Questions are typically drafted by the questioning spouse’s attorney.
  • Deposition: Each party has the opportunity to meet face to face with their spouse in the presence of a stenographer to ask questions under oath directly to the other spouse. Counsel will conduct the deposition.
  • Document Request. One spouse can send the other spouse a list of documents that the other spouse must provide. This method is useful for obtaining documents not required under Rule 410, such as credit card statements, medical records, documents related to the children’s needs, or documents related to a particular issue in a divorce case.
  • Subpoenas: Counsel has the authority to send a subpoena to a variety of institutions and individuals to obtain records directly from the source, rather than rely on your spouse to produce the records. A subpoena is a useful method to verify information such as income from an employer, bank records from a financial institution, or to question a witness of interest to the divorce matter
  • Actuaries: These are used to value retirement and other benefits such as pensions.
  • Appraisal: A certified appraiser can be called upon to verify the worth of assets belonging to the couple, including jewelry, collections, and real estate
  • Private Investigation: A private investigator may be used to verify information provided by one or the other spouse.

The information discussed in this article are basic guidelines to help you understand Financial disclosure laws in a Massachusetts divorce, however, they are not intended to be a substitute for legal representation.