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Home > Divorce Q&A's: (sect-Property issues in divorce) > Discovery of Assets & Reducing Fees  

Discovery of Assets and How to Reduce Your Attorney's Fees

The Gitlin Law Firm, P.C., Woodstock, Illinois    © 2013

Q:I have scheduled my initial consultation with my lawyer. What documents should I bring with me?

A:You should speak with the lawyer's legal assistant and determine which documents you are to bring to your initial conference. In my initial conference, I only want basic documents to be provided. These are:

    • The tax returns for the past two years;
    • A recent pay-check stub showing year to date pay;
    • The most recent statement of accrued benefits for any pension plan.

In fact, it is not necessary that a potential client brings any of these documents to the initial consultation. But if these documents are available, your lawyer will find it helpful for you to bring them to the initial conference.

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Q:Are there other ways that I can obtain financial information without asking my spouse for it?

A:Yes. An accountant will usually keep copies of tax returns that have been prepared for the last several years. The accountant should provide these documents to either spouse. Additionally, there is an I.R.S. form that can be completed so that either party can obtain copies of tax returns previously filed.

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Q:What if I don't have access to any of the facts and figures?

A:Illinois law provides for what is called disclosure of assets. This used to be called “discovery” but the law was changed to disclosure once more specific duties were placed on the person who was served with discovery, including duties to update discovery, etc.

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Q:What are the usual discovery tools that are used in divorce and paternity cases?

A:The usual discovery tools are a notice to produce and interrogatories. A notice to produce requires a party to produce certain documents that are in his possession or “reasonably within his control.” I have seen cases where people take a very narrow view of what is “reasonably within” a party's control. Usually, the the necessary documents will be obtained and failure to produce documents only serves to needlessly increase the cost of the litigation. The other usual discovery tool served on a party (a spouse to a divorce) is called “interrogatories.” The Illinois Supreme Court has approved what are called “standard interrogatories” for use in divorce cases. Interrogatories require a party to answer questions.

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Q:Are there means of reducing attorney's fees in connection with the discovery process?

A:Yes. In the past, many times parties complied with a notice to produce in a haphazard manner designed to needlessly increase the cost of the litigation. There are now rules as to how documents should be provided once a party is served with a notice to produce. The rules require a party to produce the requested documents “as they are kept in the usual course of business or organized and labeled to correspond with the categories of the request.” By following these rules fully, parties are able to reduce the cost of litigation. Also note the rules for production of documents state that “a party has a duty to seasonably supplement any prior response to the extent of documents, objects or tangible things which subsequently come into that party's possession or control or become known to a party.”

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Q:I have heard that counseling and psychiatric records are usually sought in discovery in a family law case. Is this correct?

A:No. As is discussed in my Q&A regarding counseling, communications with a mental health professional are assumed to be confidential unless a party is deemed to have placed his or her mental health at issue in the case. Even if discovery is allowed in such cases, the usual protocol is for the documents to be delivered to the judge. The judge is then supposed to make the determination as to whether the documents will be released.

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Q:I have heard about subpoenas. What is a subpoena?

A:A subpoena is much like a notice to produce in that it often requires a someone to produce records. Unlike a notice to produce, a subpoena is directed to a non-party (in a divorce case, to a non-spouse). A “records only subpoena” will direct a non-party to produce records and the deposition is not taken if the records are produced within a certain date. A regular subpoena is one in which a person may be required both to produce records and to answer questions under oath.

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Q:How is discovery accomplished in collaborative representation? 

A:Collaborative representation is a voluntary process and either spouse is free to terminate the process at any time.  For this reason, either there is cooperation in providing desired documents and information or the process ends.  The cooperative approach to disclosure of information and the reduction in the overall costs for the professionals involved may be one of the benefits to collaborative representation. 

The Gitlin Law Firm, P.C., provides the above information as a service to potential and current clients. A person's accessing the information contained in this web site, is not considered as retaining The Gitlin Law Firm for any case nor is it considered as providing legal advice. The Gitlin Law Firm cannot guarantee the outcome of any case.

The Gitlin Law Firm, P.C.
Practice Limited to Family Law
663 East Calhoun Street
Woodstock, IL 60098


Gitlin Law Firm, P.C.

Updated:  April 23, 2013

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