From the Divorce section of How You Can Avoid Legal Land Mines by Joseph S. Lyles (2003).
It is amazing how many wives in this day and age do not know how much money their husbands make. Whether her husband is a construction worker or a business executive, many a wife just doesn’t know the amount of his actual income, and may not have any idea what he spends his pay on, whether it is stocks, gambling, booze, other women, cars, bass boats, real estate or clothes. Occasionally, it is the wives who make and spend the money and the husbands don’t have a clue.
Because a major part of any divorce is dividing the martial property and liabilities, it is important to know your spouse’s true financial situation. Many spouses involved in divorces have tried to hide at least some of their income and/or assets. Once you have separated from your spouse it can be very difficult to determine the truth on these issues.
Thus, you should always get your own copy of the tax returns each year, and you should study the return to try to get a clear picture of your joint financial situation. Then if you separate from your spouse, you will easily be able to explain your finances to your attorney who, in turn, can ensure you receive all you are entitled to in the divorce.
Sometimes tax returns will either not be filed or will be inaccurate. If your spouse gets paid in cash, for example, as a subcontractor on a construction job, it can be very hard to prove in court what he or she makes in actual dollars. Your best bet is probably to keep track of who is paying your spouse so you can subpoena the employer to testify in Family Court. Also, if your spouse makes any loan applications keep a copy of the application for your records because it will document his or her income.
The Lesson: When it comes to your marital finances, what you don’t know can hurt you. Without this knowledge, you will not get your fair share of marital assets in a divorce.