Discovery is important to determine what the parties have in terms of assets, liabilities, income, properties, stocks, bonds, real estate, and autos. It basically shows the hands of what the party has, in terms of income, expenses, liabilities, and assets. In many marriages, one party really does not know what the other party has or earns. In many marriages, there is one party that is the primary financial provider and the holder of all the financial records.
It is only after discovery, in many cases, that one party actually can discover what the other party has, in terms of income. The parties might file separate tax returns. They might have separate bank accounts. They might have separate credit cards. By engaging in discovery, you and your attorney will be able to see exactly what the other side has.
The importance of knowing what the other side has comes into play in terms of negotiating a settlement. When we’re talking about dividing marital assets, including real estate, we’re also talking about property, we’re also talking about accounts, we’re also talking about pension, profit-sharing, and retirement accounts. So you need to know what the total financial asset scenario is in determining what a reasonable amount or division of assets would be.
You also have to factor in what that person has in terms of debts. The person might make a lot of money, but the person might also have a lot of obligations, whether it be car payment, mortgage payment, loans of some sort, student loans, tax debt, and credit card bills. This all comes into play in terms of whether or not that person can pay maintenance or not. So the financial picture is very important. More and more today we have retirement accounts, whereby people really don’t know what they have in those retirement accounts.
By engaging in discovery, you will find out exactly, up to date, what that person has in a pension, profit-sharing, or retirement benefit, and you will know approximately what you’re entitled to, thanks to the advice and counsel of your attorney. So discovery is an important tool in determining what everybody has, what the negotiations should consist of, and what the division should eventually consist of, based on what you find in those discovery documents.