Historically, investment portfolios and other important financial documents were kept in paper records, stored safely in a home or even a safety deposit box at a bank. With the evolution of technology, the Internet and cloud storage databases, paper records seem to be heading the way of the telegram — for extinction. While there still might be some hard financial records, preparing for a divorce can take more investigative prowess than it did in the past.

Most couples in Illinois now store at least some of their financial information online. Instead of receiving monthly account information in the mail, bank users can simply log online and check the balance of any given account, credit card, loan or savings account. When both parties are listed on the account and have equal access to account names and passwords, collecting information from online sources can be a breeze before heading into property division negotiations. The trouble comes when one of the parties has access to information that the other does not.

Digital information stored on the Internet is actually protected fairly well by various laws and regulations aimed at protecting user privacy. While virtually no one would argue against better online privacy, these laws can create a troublesome barrier to accessing necessary financial information for a divorce. Even worse, perhaps, it can make it that much easier for one person to conceal money or investments, subsequently creating an unbalanced division of assets.

This can be quite troublesome even for Illinois couples who were otherwise fairly open about finances during the course of the marriage. Negotiations over property division during divorce cannot truly produce an equitable result for both parties when one person might not be playing their full hand. Although many people hope to avoid heading to court, some situations — such as possible concealed assets or financial information — can necessitate a judge’s input and ruling on the matter.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “How to Handle Investments When You Divorce“, Lou Carlozo, Nov. 16, 2015