The discovery process is a crucial step in every contested divorce to determine the extent of the parties’ property and assets. While potentially complicated and time-consuming, it represents a necessary and efficient path to settlement and a critical tool in the event of a trial. The following paragraphs explain how the discovery process works in Cook County, and how attorneys use it to ensure that their clients’ best interests are preserved.
NOTICES TO PRODUCE DOCUMENTS AND MARITAL INTERROGATORIES
In Cook County, the discovery process begins with the same two standard requests for information: Notice to Produce Documents (Rule 214) and Marital Interrogatories (Rule 213). The Notice to Produce Documents requires that the person that is being served the Notice submit key financial and employment information, such as tax returns and W2 forms, pay stubs, bank statements, 401k plan information, Financial Affidavit, and other similar documentation regarding the person’s assets. The Marital Interrogatories are formal questions regarding the person’s employment, income, and other assets such as business interests, real property, and vehicles. The answers to both of these requests provide attorneys, and potentially the judge, determine the extent of the parties’ marital property and how it should be divided.
According to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 13.3.2, the person submitting these requests must also send their Financial Affidavit, tax returns from the previous two years, and the most recent pay stub that reflects year-to-date income. Once these requests have been served, the person whose information is being requested has 28 days to provide their response. They are obligated to provide everything that has been requested to the best of their abilities and provide truthful and accurate information in their Financial Affidavit and answers to the Matrimonial Interrogatories. Failure to comply with the discovery requests by providing false or partial information can have significant legal consequences. Fortunately, the law provides methods to enforce the discovery rules
ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT RULE 201K
One of the most efficient ways to resolve contested divorces is by both parties providing thorough, accurate, and timely answers to the other’s discovery requests. Unfortunately, this does not always take place. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 201k requires that the parties make reasonable efforts to resolve any problems regarding discovery outside of court, such as incomplete or inaccurate responses. As a ‘reasonable effort’, the party requesting the information can send a letter pursuant to Rule 201k if they have not received the other party’s answers to their discovery requests within 28 days. This letter provides the other party with an additional seven days to submit their response to the discovery requests. After this seven-day period, the requesting party can petition the court to intervene.
MOTION TO COMPEL
Delays in discovery are the primary reasons that even relatively straightforward divorces can become arduous and lengthy. Following the initial 28 days and the additional seven days granted by the 201k letter, the law allows the requesting party to file a Motion to Compel. In this Motion the requesting party outlines what has happened so far in the discovery process and accuses the other party of unnecessarily delaying the matter. As a result, the requesting party can ask the court to issue an order compelling the other party to comply with the discovery requests, as well as pay for the costs incurred by the requesting party in having to file the Motion to Compel. Once the Motion is presented in court, the judge can order the party that has yet to provide their answers to the discovery requests within a certain amount of time. Hopefully, this is the last step required to move the divorce along toward settlement or prepare the attorneys for a potential trial. Failure to comply with a court order such as this can have serious consequences that are more fully described in the article on Petitions for Rule to Show Cause.