One key component to any divorce case is the discovery process. Many people might ask, “What is discovery?” Discovery at its core can be defined as the exchange or acquisition of information. The discovery process can occur in many forms and any good divorce attorney will utilize the numerous methods or resources available to him to obtain the information and/or documentation necessary to adequately represent his client’s interests.
Obtaining information via the discovery process can be accomplished via several different mechanisms, the most common of which include the following:
1. Request for Production of Documents – A Request for Production of Documents (also known as a Notice to Produce) is a formal request sent by one party’s attorney to the other party’s attorney which typically contains a Rider or list of documents that are being requested. The party served with the Request is provided 28 days to tender the requested documents to the requesting attorney, along with an Answer which delineates exactly which documents are being produced. In divorce cases, a Request for Production of Documents is an excellent way to obtain pertinent documentation which is essential to resolving a divorce case including but not limited to tax returns, bank statements, employment contracts, pay-stubs, credit card statements, title to property, etc.
2. Interrogatories – Interrogatories are written questions that are sent to an opposing party that must be answered by the opposing party in written form. In Illinois, standard matrimonial interrogatories contain numerous questions that pertain to the parties’ finances, assets, and liabilities and are often used by Illinois divorce attorneys to illicit information from an opposing party. The answers submitted must be signed and verified as true and correct by the answering party and are a crucial component to the discovery process in Illinois divorce cases.
3. Depositions – A deposition is the oral examination of either a party or witness by an attorney. The deponent (or person giving the testimony) will typically give his or her deposition at the office of the attorney asking the questions or another agreed-upon location. The deponent is sworn in and under oath when answering questions and every word spoken at the deposition is transcribed by a court reporter, who is present throughout the examination. Depositions are a highly-effective tool for Illinois divorce attorneys in seeking and obtaining information pertinent to their case. Depositions are not only limited to the parties to a divorce but can also be used to elicit important testimony from experts, business partners, and other witnesses whose testimony is relevant to the pending divorce action.
4. Subpoenas for Documents – A subpoena for documentation (often referred to as a Subpoena Duces Tecum) is a document request sent by an attorney to an individual or business entity containing a list of documentation requested from that individual or business, Illinois divorce attorneys are granted subpoena powers in the context of a divorce case and an effective divorce lawyer will take advantage of this by utilizing the power of the subpoena for documents to obtain crucial documentation from individuals or business entities. This can be a fabulous tool for a divorce attorney to obtain documentation that might not otherwise be obtainable perhaps because it was not available to the parties or was intentionally withheld by an opposing party.
The discovery process itself is a crucial component to any divorce action. It is imperative that anyone seeking a divorce retain an attorney who is well versed in the discovery process and knows how to retrieve the information necessary to protect and pursue his client’s best interests. The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. has extensive experience in navigating the discovery process in divorce and other family law cases. For more information, call us at (312) 408-7000.