It is not uncommon in marriages for one spouse to maintain access to most of the financial information. In some relationships this is because one spouse wants to control the other spouse, but in most relationships, it is simply the most convenient way to run the household. With the advent of online payments for everything from mortgages to grocery shopping, it has become more and more common for one spouse to take on the responsibility of making sure the bills get paid. In the event of a pending separation however, this can make it very difficult for the departing spouse to truly know how much money comes into and flows out of the household in a given month.
If you find yourself in a situation where you either don’t have access to your household’s financial information or you don’t feel like your spouse will give you access if you ask for it, the best thing you can do is start with obtaining access to whatever information you can without asking your spouse. For joint accounts such as checking and savings, simply visit your local branch and ask for copies of the last few statements. Most banks will provide such information, at least in a summary form, with proper identification. Our firm prefers to have the last twelve (12) months statements for all financial accounts whenever possible.
Another good source of household income information is previous tax returns. Even if you weren’t the spouse preparing the information, if your name is listed on the tax return, you can get a copy of it directly from the IRS. Simply visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov for information on Form 4506. Currently, the fee for a full copy is $57.00 per requested return, and it takes about 60 days to process. Only one signature is necessary to request the information on joint returns. You can also request a transcript of your return for free which will have most information necessary to determine a couple’s taxable income, but transcripts can only be requested for the previous three (3) years, whereas full copies go back six (6) years.