How Does Discovery Work in an Illinois Divorce?
“Discovery” is a common term that means something very different to attorneys than the general public. While television shows like to cover the initial filing of a lawsuit and the trial, rarely does the media portray the slower-paced discovery process that occurs in between the beginning and ending of a case. After a divorce case is filed, and the respondent files an answer to the petition for dissolution of the marriage, the attorneys begin the discovery process of exchanging information with each other to facilitate a resolution to the case.
What is Discovery in a Divorce Case?
Discovery can consist of several different processes and associated terms. These include:
- Request for Production of Documents - This involves requesting documents that are relevant to the case. In a divorce case, typical documents that must be produced are financial records such as bank statements and tax returns.
- Subpoenas Duces Tecum - A subpoena duces tecum is similar to a request for production of documents, but it comes from the court. Typically these are issued if the other side is being uncooperative with a request, as failure to respond to a subpoena duces tecum can result in being held in contempt of court.
- Interrogatories - These are written questions about the case that must be answered under oath. These questions are used to clarify information that has been discovered through other means, or to prepare for a deposition.
- Requests to Admit - These are similar to interrogatories, but rather than ask direct questions, these are statements that the other party must admit or deny to help narrow the key issues in the case as it progresses.
- Depositions - This is one area of the discovery process that many people are familiar with. A deposition is testimony given under oath during which opposing counsel may question the other side. Depositions are similar to a trial, but without a judge or jury present. Inconsistent testimony given during a deposition may also be admissible at trial.
The Importance of Discovery in Illinois Divorce Cases
Discovery is important because it can help narrow down the issues in a case. Many facts are stipulated to during discovery, and often this leads to a settlement, as very few divorce cases actually proceed to a trial before a judge. Discovery is especially important in cases where assets may be hidden, as it is often the only legal remedy that a party has to attempt to find these assets before the divorce is finalized. If a divorce is approved by a court without those assets being discovered, it can be extremely difficult to have the divorce decree modified.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
An experienced family law attorney can assist you during the discovery process in a divorce case and fight for your best interests when it comes to issues like splitting property, spousal support, and child custody. If you are filing for divorce or have already been served with divorce papers, contact our dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys today to learn how we can be of assistance.