Spouses must seek information from their former spouses and locate and value their assets during a divorce. Some information, however, may be difficult to find. Traditional and, with increasing frequency, non-traditional compensation plan from a soon-to-be former spouse’s employers should be an important part of property division but can be difficult to uncover.
Spouses need access to information about their spouse’s salary, bonuses, deferred compensation, stock options and vesting schedules. Non-employed spouses should also obtain paperwork concerning stocks, tax returns and customized compensation arrangements.
The non-employed spouse usually has a right to this information for the time the couple was married. The employer typically does not have to turn over employee information for any time before their wedding date. If the request is too far back in time and falls outside the company’s retention schedule, the employer does not have to provide the documents.
Employers can appropriately meet information requests if their compensation and incentive programs are organized around individual employees. Soft-ware or third-party vendors can make this more employee-centered and accessible to the employed spouse when they choose to access it. This allows employees to access information more quickly in response to requests.
Employers may also send quarterly or semi-annual information which can be readily disclosed during a divorce. Sending out information directly also helps protect privacy.
Employers often create unnecessary problems, delays, and costs by not disclosing information even though the non-business spouse is entitled to have it. Employers may treat requests for information the same as other business dealings by not promptly complying with requests or providing it in a disorganized manner. This can add more costs, delay and litigation and require actions such as filing subpoenas.
Some assets, such as compensation plans, may be withheld when couples undergo divorce. An attorney can help obtain information from employers and a soon-to-be former spouse. Lawyers can also advise spouses during negotiations help assure that their rights are protected.