Published in the Union Leader
Q: My wife filed for divorce. The paperwork provided by the court included a checklist of documents to produce. Many of the documents are personal and confidential. Others relate to my business. I don’t think my partners will want this information produced. Do I need to produce these documents?
A: Certain disclosures are required in every case, unless waived by agreement. Family Division Rule 1.25-A, which can be found at www.courts.state.nh.us/rules/family, provides a list of the information that must be produced in different types of family law cases. The information is extensive, although it is possible to agree upon limitations or terms to protect of confidentiality.
In a divorce, absent agreement to the contrary, some of the documents that must be produced include: a current financial affidavit (disclosing all income, assets and expenses), three years of personal and business tax returns, four most recent pay stubs and year-end pay stub (or equivalents), various financial statements (monthly, quarterly and year-to-date income statement and balance sheet), documentation concerning medical insurance and other employee benefits, all applications for credit or statements of assets and liabilities within the last year, one year of statements for bank and other accounts, six months of credit card statements, documentation of life insurance and any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. These documents must be produced within 45 days from the date of service of the petition or 10 days prior to a temporary hearing (not the ‘First Appearance’ conference).
As you point out, many of these documents are personal and confidential. While business partners are often quite unhappy to learn that such information must be disclosed, it is required. A court will compel production and may impose penalties if information is withheld. The benefit to such disclosure, however, is that the exchange of this information at the outset of the case allows for early case assessment and productive discussions about settlement.
While the disclosure of sensitive information often worries parties, some protection of the information is available. For example, pursuant to RSA 458:15-b, the disclosure of a financial affidavit to a person not authorized to obtain it is a misdemeanor criminal offense. Rule 1.25-A also allows parties to redact all but the last four digits of account numbers and social security numbers that appear on documents. If more comprehensive protection is desired, the parties may also agree or the court may order that certain information be treated as confidential and not disclosed outside of the litigation.
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