While the phrase “get divorced” makes it sound like one action, the process of legally ending a marriage requires a number of legal and emotional steps. It takes time and effort to complete the personal and official tasks that help move you toward a happy, independent life.
One serious task people face during a divorce case is producing documents, usually in a response to a Notice to Produce.
Discovery is a legal term for the court’s way of asking you to provide document-based evidence related to your case. This evidence is distributed to the other party, which in a divorce is your soon-to-be ex-spouse and their lawyer.
Understanding the process of discovery in divorce law
Discovery is the process of two sides in a legal case exchanging pertinent information before a trial takes place or a settlement is reached. In divorce cases, the process of discovery can happen during the initial dissolution of marriage proceedings, as well as in post-decree actions and cases involving your children.
In every legal case, both parties and their attorneys want to find out as much information as possible, so they know how best to structure the argument for their side. The judge, as well, needs important information to make fair decisions that abide by the law and legal precedent.
In divorce cases, financial information is always the most prominent topic at issue during discovery. While other matters may be subject to the discovery process in divorce litigation, the parties’ financial standing is always a focus.
As part of discovery, the two parties exchange a Financial Affidavit which has also been known in the past as a Disclosure Statement. This statement and its supporting documents must reflect an accurate picture of each party’s financial situation, including their assets, income, and debts.
Cooperating with the discovery process in divorce
Discovery is an integral part of our legal system and something to which every party in a law case is subject to. While you might be hesitant to share details of your personal financial life, this process is required in general. Your failure to respond could create delays in your case and increase your attorney’s fees. In response to your failure to produce your information, the other party could pursue a Motion to Compel Discovery, a legal device to pressure you into providing the information or face legal consequences.
When completing your Financial Affidavit for your divorce proceedings, prepare to be forthcoming with details. The law expects parties to complete these statements “in good faith,” meaning you’ll offer the information in the most forthcoming and accurate way possible.
Some people attempt to hide financial assets in a move to gain more for their side in the final divorce settlement. In addition to being morally wrong, this tactic is a misrepresentation of information to the court, illegal, and highly inadvisable.
Responding to a Notice to Produce in a divorce case
Another tool in addition to the Financial Affidavit in a divorce is a Notice to Produce. You have 28 days to respond to the Notice with your documents. If you are planning to enter into divorce proceedings, you have an opportunity to begin collecting information and documents as soon as possible, in anticipation of receiving a Notice to Produce this information.
Generally, in a Notice to Produce, you must collect and turn over records from the past three years that include but is not limited to details about:
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Stocks and investments
- Credit cards
- Vehicles/vehicle loans
- Business assets and debts
The court needs these important financial details to make orders about child support, spousal maintenance, legal fees, and the division of your estate assets and debts. You swear to the accuracy of the information provided in response to the request.
As you compile this important legal disclosure for your divorce case, your attorney can assist you in understanding what must be included. Your divorce attorney will also review the Financial Affidavit and your documents before submitting same. Other discovery tools are available and you should talk to your attorney if you believe that all assets, debt, and/or income have been identified.
Divorce cases are legal proceedings that come with unfamiliar terms and sometimes onerous tasks. With help from an experienced divorce attorney, you can move through your divorce case knowing you have people to educate and support you.
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For more information about the divorce process, including discovery, call Sterk Family Law Group at (815) 600-8950 or you may contact us through the form below:
This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.