You’ve completed your financial disclosure form and you’re ready to begin discovery, but what exactly does that mean?
Discovery is a process by which the opposing party is required to disclose information that only they have access to. This assists both you and your attorney in understanding the facts and building your case. There are several devices for discovery, however the most common in family law include: depositions, Interrogatories, Requests to Admit, and Notices to Produce.
Interrogatories, Requests to Admit, and Notices to Produce will be sent from your attorney to opposing counsel. Depositions are held in person at an attorney’s office and requires the presence of the person being deposed as well as their attorney. As depositions are more costly, parties typically try to avoid them unless they are necessary.
The Interrogatories will list a series of questions to which the opposing party must answer. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213 limits Interrogatories to only 30 questions, except for the standard form interrogatories approved by the Supreme Court. The standard form interrogatories include Matrimonial Interrogatories which are comprised of twenty-seven (27) questions, many with subsections. These questions inquire about assets, debts, and other obligations the person may have. The opposing party will answer these questions and send their responses back to your attorney.
While the Interrogatories ask questions, the Requests to Admit make statements. These statements are to be admitted or denied by the party they were served on. Unlike depositions, Interrogatories and Notices to Produce, the Requests to Admit are not looking for facts; Requests to Admit are used to bring known facts forward without additional evidence. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 216 limits requests to admit to thirty (30) requests and states that any requests that go unanswered after 28 days are deemed admitted.
A Notice to Produce is exactly what it sounds like. It provides you with a list of documents for you to “produce” for the opposing party, or alternatively, it provides the opposing party a list of documents to produce for you. These often ask for credit card statements, pay stubs, retirement and pension summaries, among other things. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 214 governs Notices to Produce and states that the party who is served with the notice to produce must supplement it with documents which later come into his or her control.
As previously mentioned, depositions are in person interviews held at an attorney’s office with attorneys for both parties present. The person being “deposed” is asked questions and then provides testimony to be used as evidence, similar to cross-examination at trial. The attorney for the person being deposed may object to questions just like being in court. While depositions can be a very useful discovery tool, they are more costly; therefore, they are usually reserved for matters which interrogatories, requests to admit, and notices to produce will not suffice. Check out Illinois Supreme Court Rule 206 if you’d like to learn more about depositions.
The information gathered during discovery will assist your attorney in building your case. Perhaps you know your spouse has a secret bank account or vacation home, but you aren’t sure where. Discovery will help uncover these facts that are essential to an equitable distribution of assets.