In a divorce matter, full financial disclosure of all income, assets and debt is not only essential for the mediation process; it’s also required under the court rules for both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts, rule 410 of the Supplemental Rules of Probate and Family Court lists out a number of financial documents that each person is entitled to receive from the other. For example, either side is entitled to receive copies of the other person’s retirement statements for the past 3 years, the last 4 pay stubs, any loan applications made over the last 3 years and other financial information. Similarly, New Hampshire‘s Family Court’s rule 1.25A contains a list of financial documents that either person can request from the other such as bank statements, retirements statements and health insurance information.
These disclosures cover both jointly held property, joint debt, individual debt, individual property, even if it accrued prior to the marriage, as well as any assets either party owns with a third party. The rules in both states allow the parties to waive full disclosure, meaning that they can agree not to require the other to provide every single item listed in the rule. The court websites for both states have a link to the rules.
Know the Rules!
How does this play out in mediation and how can the parties use the rules to save time, effort and money?
The first step is to read the rule. List out what documents may not be fully available to both sides. For instance, if both parties have routinely filed joint income tax returns and the returns are readily available, there is no need to require that the returns be produced. Conversely, if either party has maintained separate bank accounts or if one person has controlled the joint bank account, the other is entitled to see those bank records, whether the account is a joint account or an individual account.
Having a reasonable discussion outside of the mediation session will help make the mediation proceed smoothly and efficiently.