Discovery of Documents from Subsequent Spouses

Parties who divorce or otherwise separate in family law cases oftentimes will remarry, or cohabit with new significant others. This can mean some financial comingling as they establish new joint accounts, file joint tax returns, take out joint credit cards, and the like. When their finances are intertwined, it could subject them to later discovery in subsequent actions, which aren’t necessarily their own cases.

For example, Let’s say a Husband and Wife divorce, and Husband subsequently marries a new wife. They maintain separate bank accounts except for two joint accounts. They file their taxes jointly and they have at least one joint credit card. Let’s then assume that Husband returns to court in his initial divorce case on child support related issues, such as his ex-spouse filing a motion to increase child support. Any and all information which contains or may lead to information relevant to a modification of child support suddenly becomes “discoverable” in their case. While his wife has no legal obligation to pay support for his children from his prior marriage, some of her assets and income are discoverable by default. Since Husband’s tax returns are discoverable, and they filed jointly, her taxes suddenly could be made discoverable in her Husband’s post decree litigation case for child support. Same thing goes for her joint bank accounts and joint credit card with her husband. However, her accounts which she maintains in her own name, and not as joint accounts with her husband, likely would not be discoverable.

This is why it is important that parties who marry people who were involved in a parentage/child support or prior divorce truly understand the implications of joint tax returns and joint accounts before establishing all of these joint finances.

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