Obtaining Income Information Through Pretrial Discovery as Part of Your Maryland Divorce

Performing complete pretrial discovery is often an essential part of divorce litigation. Your spouse’s income and earnings are likely a crucial piece of that puzzle. This discovery may be as basic as obtaining a few items documenting wages (like W-2 forms) or a complicated matter involving documentation of multiple streams of present and deferred income. An experienced Maryland divorce lawyer can be vital to getting all the information necessary to provide the court with a full and complete picture of your spouse’s wealth and assets.

The discovery dispute in the divorce of C.B. and R.B. represents a clear illustration of how counsel can help when you’re initially thwarted in your efforts to obtain essential income information.

The couple were two high-powered professionals who married in 2011 and separated in 2023. The couple had prenuptial and postnuptial agreements that resolved most – but not all — of their property issues. Specifically, the spouses disputed issues of a monetary award and division of some personal property and retirement accounts.

With these financial matters unresolved, the husband engaged in pretrial discovery, seeking document evidence related to the wife’s earnings as her employer’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel. Specifically, he sought pay stubs, along with anything else showing the wife’s work schedule and hours worked, as well as her compensation (including structure, salary, bonuses, and fringe benefits.

The wife’s counsel declined to provide the information (arguing they weren’t authorized to divulge the documents,) so the husband sought the information from the employer. The employer went to a federal judge and got an injunction, so the husband subpoenaed the records from two of the employer’s executives – its Chief Executive Officer and its President of Business Development.

The officers opposed the subpoenas, but the trial court refused to quash the subpoenas. The executives appealed, but the husband again prevailed.

When Courts May Throw Out Discovery Requests

When your spouse (or parties affiliated with your spouse) seek to defeat your document discovery request, the law provides several bases for doing so. One common approach is to argue that your requests were too broad, unduly burdensome, or both. One way to attack a subpoena as overbroad is if it is “procurable by other means.”

The executives advanced that “other means” argument, but were unsuccessful. The husband had proof that the executives were the wife’s direct supervisors. The husband also alleged that the wife told him the executives “had conversations with her regarding her compensation, annual bonuses, and deferred compensation, and that she had deleted electronic correspondence from them regarding her compensation.”

Although the executives argued that the husband could obtain the information through other, less burdensome avenues, they never identified those avenues. Absent any evidence to the contrary, the executives clearly were “the most knowledgeable representatives of [the employer] to respond to the discovery requests,” according to the court.

Obtaining essential income information as part of your divorce case could be as simple as a single document request to the HR team at your spouse’s employer or, like this case, be an elaborate battle waged across multiple courts. Whatever you need to get the information your case requires, skilled counsel can be critical to getting that task done properly. In your divorce, count on the experienced Maryland family law attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to provide reliable advice and effective litigation strategies to maximize your chances of a successful outcome. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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