The Lawletter Vol 34, No 8, September 21, 2010
Brett Turner, Senior Attorney, Family Law
In Schreiber v. Schreiber, ___ N.Y.3d ___, 904 N.Y.S.2d 886, 2010 WL 2735672 (2010) (available only on Westlaw), the husband was an attorney in sole practice. He claimed that his income was low and that his practice had little value. The wife responded that his financial records were misleading and that his practice had significant worth.
To develop facts in support of her position, the wife requested that the court order the husband to provide her with a clone of the hard drive on his office computer. She claimed that the clone would provide substantial evidence in support of her position. The motion was not without support in the facts, as the wife alleged that the husband had paid no income taxes from 2006 to 2008 and that he had used a single account to pay both personal and business expenses.
A New York trial court nevertheless rejected her request, holding that it was so broad as to constitute a fishing expedition. The wife's motion was therefore denied. However, the court suggested that a more focused motion might be granted if the motion requested only that a neutral computer expert run a specified word search on the drive, focusing only upon files added or changed within a short period of time before the divorce, and if the material obtained through the search were reviewed by a neutral referee to remove privileged material.