We have received a lot of positive feedback about our columns in Our Towne. Many readers have told us that the issues discussed and the advice given has been eye-opening. The inspiration for the articles comes from our experiences representing people from all socio-economic backgrounds and education levels. However, the inspiration for this article came from a recent Dear Abby column that I read in the newspaper.

A woman wrote to Abby and asked for advice about what to do with her husband that would not share financial information with her. She explained that she was in a long term marriage and that although she managed the household expenses the Husband would not share financial information about bank accounts or any of their assets or debts. The Wife said that when she pressed her Husband for information he became defensive. Obviously, this is not a good sign. The Wife did not know how to proceed. Abby’s advice? Go see a lawyer.

While I do not disagree that the Wife may need to consult with a lawyer, there may be other steps she could take find out the information she wanted. Here are a few steps that can be taken to flush out financial information that your spouse has not shared with you:

  1. Tax Returns – I am always amazed at the number of people that do not read or know what is on their tax returns (even though they are signed by the tax payer).  Tax returns are a treasure chest of information. Tax returns will tell you if there exists interest bearing savings accounts, stocks, IRAs, 401(k)s, other retirement/investment accounts or business interests. A tax return should be carefully reviewed and all forms and schedules attached to it should be examined. If the tax return is prepared by an accountant, you should contact that person for a copy your return if you do not have one. If your accountant does not have a copy, then you can request a copy from the IRS or state tax agency. If you do not understand the information on the tax return, then you should seek the advice of an accountant.
  1. Credit Reports – Although you cannot obtain your spouse’s credit report without his/her consent, you can certainly obtain your own. A credit report will show you what debts are associated with your name and how many credit inquiries have been made on your file. You can obtain a free copy of your credit report once per year by visiting the website www.annualcreditreport.com.
  1. Bank Accounts – If it is a joint bank account, you are entitled to records. Account statements will show you how much money has been deposited and withdrawn. Statements also provide clues as to the existence of separate bank accounts. For example, if there are deposits/transfers to/from other bank accounts, that will show up on the statement. I have discovered the existence of “secret” bank accounts simply by examining joint bank account statements.
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