Step Three – Obtain Information
Before you engage in serious negotiation with your spouse, you need the important facts concerning marital finances – all financial information on income, assets, and debts. You need a complete picture of the entire marital estate. See below List of Documents / Information You Need concerning financial information. The information you need can be broken down in two general categories: (1) financial and (2) conduct.
In this step, it is important to decide if you are going to raise allegations of marital misconduct in negotiations (if you are going to use allegations of adultery or allegations of spousal mistreatment to seek a negotiating advantage). Generally speaking, allegations of martial misconduct usually serve to reduce the chances of settlement. As noted in the main page of the Roadmap Steps, this process is not designed for spouses who are dealing with serious marital misconduct issues.
(If you believe you need to investigate your spouse's conduct, you should discuss this with your attorney as soon as possible. You may need to consider special evidence gathering methods. This could involve the use of a private investigator, voice recordings, or potentially the scan and imaging of your spouse's personal computers or electronic devices - see How to Obtain E-Discovery in a Georgia Divorce.)In the traditional collaborative law process, there is usually a written agreement to exchange all financial information informally and commit to total financial transparency, but it is difficult to know if the opposing spouse is honoring the agreement. For example, if one of the spouses is an owner in a closely held business, it may be difficult to tell if the income he or she is claiming is fair and accurate reflects all earnings to which the spouse is entitled. And, nothing represented in the collaborative process is under oath. Accordingly, conduct issues are difficult to address.
Therefore, the attorneys involved may need to consider ways to ensure complete transparency (some limited mechanisms similar to formal discovery) while seeking to resolve the divorce prior to a filing. Some creative thinking may need to be done. Deviations from the traditional collaborative process agreement may need to be made. For example, the parties can agree that limited depositions can be conducted to ensure that there has been a full and complete disclosure of all financial information and important conduct information.
If both attorneys will agree and commit to these Roadmap Steps in good faith, then a plan specific to the challenges of your divorce can be put in place and structure created such that fully informed settlement discussions can be had prior to a contested action being filed. Accordingly, it is critical that both attorneys agree to the Pledge.