Dear Cassie: My daughter is going through a divorce, and now her husband is trying to bring me into it. He sent me a demand for my income tax returns in a Subpoena. Do I have to give them?
Outside of the realm of divorce litigation, a party must meet a heightened standard in order to obtain an opposing party’s tax filings in the course of discovery. Indeed, while federal and state law generally recognize that income tax returns are confidential, this does not hold true in divorce actions as compared to other types of legal proceedings.
New Jersey courts have adopted a broad and liberal approach in divorce matters regarding the financial information of the parties to the divorce. In fact, the rules of discovery for New Jersey provide that parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter which is not privileged and which is relevant to a claim or defense of any other party.
That said, you are not a “party” to the divorce case (your daughter and her husband are the parties). The demand for information from you must be reasonable and must have relevance to the divorce matter. Subpoenas cannot be used as harassment tools, and must be issued in good faith. Unwarranted intrusion and invasion of your privacy is not permitted. Where the need for the requested information does not outweigh your invasion of privacy, discovery should be denied–especially when you are not a party to the divorce.
To evaluate the merits of the Subpoena and an appropriate response, you should seek the advice of matrimonial counsel.
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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.