Divorce is a legal action, brought to a court of law. Both parties are required to exchange information and each party must provide the information requested by the other so long as it is relevant to the dissolution proceedings. This process is known as formal discovery. In divorce cases, the discovery process is primarily used to obtain financial information but may also be used in custody and parenting time disputes.
What makes discovery important in a divorce?
Many people going through a divorce are lacking information about their marital assets. They may not have a clear understanding of their marital debts, their spouse’s income, or other financial information concerning the marriage. Property division, spousal maintenance, and child support are financial matters determined in a divorce. The discovery process contributes to transparency between the parties.
How is discovery conducted in Chicago or the Chicagoland area?
Full financial disclosure is required in a divorce under state law. There are several methods by which discovery can be accomplished, depending on the divorce and the type of information needed.
- Financial Affidavit: Each divorcing spouse is required to complete a Financial Affidavit for the benefit of the court and the other spouse. This is a comprehensive financial disclosure form approved by the state Supreme Court. The parties are required to attach supporting documentation to the form. These documents may include pay stubs, bank statements, appraisals, deeds, mortgages, insurance policies, retirement account records, tax returns, estate planning documents, and any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements.
- Interrogatories: During the discovery process, each party can submit written questions known as interrogatories to the other party. Both parties are required to respond within a certain timeframe and verify the veracity of the responses. These questions often pertain to the assets, income, and debts of the other spouse. Interrogatories are also used to establish facts about the other spouse that could affect the division of marital property or a spousal maintenance award, such as income history, work history, and educational background.
- Admissions of fact: With a request for admission of fact, the other party is asked to admit or deny certain allegations, with the purpose of obtaining a yes or no answer. Admissions of fact are often used in divorce to reveal hidden assets or to establish the validity of certain documents. As with interrogatories, the other side has a time limit in which to respond. If a divorcing spouse fails to respond, the statement is accepted as fact by the court.
- Requests for production: Documents can be obtained from the other spouse using requests for production. This can be helpful if you suspect assets are being concealed, if documents were missing from the initial financial disclosure, or if there are specific documents you want to examine.
- Subpoenas: A subpoena is an order issued by the court. In more complicated divorce cases, subpoenas may be needed to obtain documents, particularly if the other party is attempting to hide assets or withhold information. When necessary, subpoenas can also be used to obtain information from financial institutions.
- Depositions: When a deposition is taken, your attorney asks questions of the person being deposed, and that person’s responses are recorded by a court reporter. A deposition is a sworn statement, given under oath. Depositions are a way of hearing a person’s testimony before trial.
Beermann LLP in Chicago and Bannockburn has been established for more than six decades. We are an award-winning divorce and family law firm, known for achieving exceptional results. From negotiated settlements to complex litigation, our talented lawyers have years of experience, a reputation in the courts, and a passion for serving each of our clients.