Interrogatories And Divorce In Illinois

Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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What Are Interrogatories In An Illinois Divorce?

Interrogatories And Divorce In Illinois

After the initial divorce pleadings and temporary motions are filed, the discovery process begins.  Discovery, in an Illinois divorce, is the exchange of documents by each spouse to prove or verify their assets, income and other relevant issues.

When it comes to discovery, if you don’t ask…you don’t get. The financial affidavit and its supporting documents are mandatory unless waived.  Everything else must be asked for with specificity.  So, how does a divorcing party in Illinois even begin to ask for the other spouse’s entire financial status and history?

The first discovery step in an Illinois divorce case is usually the issuance of interrogatories.

Interrogatories are “a series of formal written questions used in the judicial examination of a party or a witness.” Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014)

In Illinois, every divorce litigant has the right to issue interrogatories and have them answeredA party may direct written interrogatories to any other party. A copy of the interrogatories shall be served on all other parties entitled to notice.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(a)

It makes sense that a series of formal questions would be standard for any divorce. While every divorce is different, everyone has an address, a bank account, an employer, etc.  While the requesting spouse probably already knows this information, it can’t hurt to have the information on paper with your spouse’s signature verifying that it is true.

The point of interrogatories is to both gather information and get your spouse to admit to relevant issues on paper. Interrogatory questions cannot be about even remotely non-relevant issues.  You cannot ask questions like “Please describe each stamp in your stamp collection” or “Isn’t it true that you cheated on me?”

“It is the duty of an attorney directing interrogatories to restrict them to the subject matter of the particular case, to avoid undue detail, and to avoid the imposition of any unnecessary burden or expense on the answering party.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(b)

“In an effort to avoid discovery disputes, the practitioner is encouraged to utilize interrogatories approved by the Supreme Court” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(j)

I have republished the Illinois Supreme Court Standard Marital Interrogatories at the end of this article.  Feel free to cut and paste them when issuing your own marital interrogatories.

It may be tempting to get creative and make your own interrogatories in lieu of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Standard Marital Interrogatories but it is almost always a mistake. Interrogatories are limited to 30 questions including subparts UNLESS they’re the Illinois Supreme Court Standard Interrogatories which have 27 questions and 100 sub-questions.

“[A] party shall not serve more than 30 interrogatories, including sub-parts, on any other party except upon agreement of the parties or leave of court granted upon a showing of good cause. A motion for leave of court to serve more than 30 interrogatories must be in writing and shall set forth the proposed interrogatories and the reasons establishing good cause for their use.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(c)

I can’t imagine the interrogatory question that would gather more valuable information than the Illinois Supreme Court Standard Marital Interrogatories’ 128 questions.

So, in an Illinois divorce always issue interrogatories and, when you do, always issue the Illinois Supreme Court Standard Marital Interrogatories.

When Should You NOT Issue Interrogatories In An Illinois Divorce?

Everything in a divorce takes time.  Lawyer and paralegals bill for their time. If there are little to no assets or income in the divorce or the parties are in agreement regarding the final terms of their divorce, then there is no point in issuing interrogatories.

The expense of interrogatories is in the answering them.  So, it may be tempting to issue as copy of the Illinois Supreme Court Standard Marital Interrogatories but expect the other side to do the same to you. 

Because of this mutually assured discovery expense, both sides should be in communication regarding what discovery is actually warranted.

“The parties shall facilitate discovery under these rules and shall make reasonable attempts to resolve differences over discovery.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 201(k)

How Do You Answer An Illinois Marital Interrogatory?

128 questions is a lot! And you don’t have much time to answer them. Just 28 days.

“Within 28 days after service of the interrogatories upon the party to whom they are directed, the party shall serve a sworn answer or an objection to each interrogatory, with proof of service upon all other parties entitled to notice.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(b)

Typically, both sides issue interrogatories to the other side.  If more than 28 days is needed, simply ask the other side for an extension. Extensions are typical courtesy during litigation.

“The answering party shall set forth in full each interrogatory being answered immediately preceding the answer.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(b)

The above Illinois Supreme Court Rule directs the interrogatory answerer to include the written answers directly below the question (just like it would look on a test).  If you need more space, ask the other party to send you a copy of the marital interrogatories in Word format. 

Often, it will simply be easier to provide documents in lieu of writing a full answer to an interrogatory question. If this is the case, simply attach the documents and write “see attached”

“When the answer to an interrogatory may be obtained from documents in the possession or control of the party on whom the interrogatory was served, it shall be a sufficient answer to the interrogatory to produce those documents responsive to the interrogatory.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(e)

Objecting To Interrogatory Questions In An Illinois Divorce

If you don’t want to answer an interrogatory question simply object to the question.

“Any objection to an answer or to the refusal to answer an interrogatory shall be heard by the court upon prompt notice and motion of the party propounding the interrogatory.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(b)

After an objection is made it is the duty of the interrogatory issuer to go to court to enforce their own interrogatory.

Objecting to interrogatory questions is not for the faint of heart. A series of burdens is placed on each side depending on the objection. 

The case Zagorski v. Allstate Insurance Co., 2016 IL App (5th) 140056 covers the issue of objecting to interrogatories exhaustively:

“Our discovery rules provide procedural tools to educate the parties in advance of trial about the merits of their claims and defenses and to promote the prompt and just disposition of litigation. When an objection to a discovery request is based on relevance, the party seeking the discovery has the obligation to establish how the discovery requested is relevant. When an objection is based on attorney-client privilege or work-product privilege, the objecting party has the burden to specifically identify the privilege, and must submit a privilege log describing the nature of the documents, communications, or things not produced, and the exact privilege being claimed. Ill. S. Ct. R. 201(n) (eff. July 1, 2014). When the objection is based on the grounds that the interrogatory is overly broad, unduly burdensome, or harassing, once again, it is the objecting party that has the obligation to offer an adequate defense to the grounds claimed.

In our view, an attorney abuses the discovery process when he or she asserts a litany of grounds for objection to discovery without any intention or any ability to defend those grounds. In the face of discovery abuses, it is incumbent upon the opposing party to promptly request relief, and it is incumbent upon the trial court to consider the request, and, where indicated, to issue orders that will discourage further abuse. Before ruling on such a request, the trial court considers whether there is a good faith basis for the objection having been interposed. The court must determine whether the objecting party has set forth a colorable claim of privilege or whether the objector has made an adequate showing that compiling the requested information would require substantial expense, labor, or disruption of business.

Our supreme court rules provide trial courts with a variety of sanctions to encourage compliance with, and discourage abuse of, the discovery process. Supreme Court Rule 201(c) authorizes the trial court to supervise discovery and to issue protective orders. Ill. S. Ct. R. 201(c) (eff. July 1, 2014). Supreme Court Rule 219 provides consequences for refusal to comply with discovery rules and orders, including the barring of evidence, the striking of pleadings, and the entry of a judgment. Ill. S. Ct. R. 219 (eff. July 1, 2002). Supreme Court Rule 137 authorizes the court to impose sanctions on a party or attorney who files a pleading that is not well grounded in fact or law, or that is interposed for an improper purpose. Ill. S. Ct. R. 137 (eff. July 1, 2013). When a trial court is presented with a motion to rule on objections or discovery matters, the court must promptly rule on those matters. The failure to issue a ruling, and where appropriate, to impose sanctions, constitutes an abuse of the court’s discretion, and an abdication of its authority and responsibility.” Zagorski v. Allstate Insurance Co., 2016 IL App (5th) 140056

Instead of objecting, most interrogatory answerers simply answer “I don’t know” or “information not available at this time.”

Evasive interrogatory answerers can be expected to be deposed for further information.

Disclosing Witnesses Via Interrogatory In An Illinois Divorce

Every interrogatory always includes questions about what witnesses you will call at trial.

“Upon written interrogatory, a party must furnish the identities and addresses of witnesses who will testify at trial and must provide the following information:

      (1) Lay Witnesses. A “lay witness” is a person giving only fact or lay opinion testimony. For each lay witness, the party must identify the subjects on which the witness will testify. An answer is sufficient if it gives reasonable notice of the testimony, taking into account the limitations on the party’s knowledge of the facts known by and opinions held by the witness.

      (2) Independent Expert Witnesses. An “independent expert witness” is a person giving expert testimony who is not the party, the party’s current employee, or the party’s retained expert. For each independent expert witness, the party must identify the subjects on which the witness will testify and the opinions the party expects to elicit. An answer is sufficient if it gives reasonable notice of the testimony, taking into account the limitations on the party’s knowledge of the facts known by and opinions held by the witness.

      (3) Controlled Expert Witnesses. A “controlled expert witness” is a person giving expert testimony who is the party, the party’s current employee, or the party’s retained expert. For each controlled expert witness, the party must identify: (i) the subject matter on which the witness will testify; (ii) the conclusions and opinions of the witness and the bases therefor; (iii) the qualifications of the witness; and (iv) any reports prepared by the witness about the case.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(f)

Interrogatories are often the first discovery document exchanged in an Illinois divorce.  It is usually way too early to know what witnesses can or will be called in a trial that will happen months or years from now (if at all). Because of this, it is perfectly acceptable to answer “unknown as of this time” regarding any possible witnesses you may call at trial.

But, be advised, if the case does get scheduled for trial, you will have to seasonably update all of your discovery including the witness disclosure from the interrogatories. 

“A party has a duty to seasonably supplement or amend any prior answer or response whenever new or additional information subsequently becomes known to that party.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(i)

If your witnesses were not disclosed properly and timely, they could be barred from trial and you will, effectively, have no evidence to present. 

The barring of undisclosed or not timely disclosed witnesses is determined by the court considering “(1) surprise to the adverse party; (2) the prejudicial effect of the witness’ testimony; (3) the nature of the witness’ testimony; (4) the diligence of the adverse party; (5) whether objection to the witness’ testimony was timely; and (6) the good faith of the party calling the witness.” Boatmen’s National Bank of Bellville v. Martin, 155 Ill. 2d 305, 314 (1993)

You will always be able to call yourself and your spouse as a witness no matter who is disclosed or isn’t disclosed per Supreme Court Rule 213(f).  The named parties to any case are never surprise witnesses. McCarthy vs. Podmajersky, 2015 IL App (1st) 143199-U

What Do You Do With All The Answers From An Illinois Marital Interrogatory?

“Answers to interrogatories may be used in evidence to the same extent as a discovery deposition.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 213(h)

Rule 212 governs discovery depositions.  Anything you can do with a discovery deposition, you can do with an interrogatory answer.

“Discovery depositions taken under the provisions of this rule may be used only:

      (1) for the purpose of impeaching the testimony of the deponent as a witness in the same manner and to the same extent as any inconsistent statement made by a witness;

      (2) as a former statement, pursuant to Illinois Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 212(a)

So, interrogatory answers can be used to impeach (call someone a liar) or prove they made the prior statement as written in the interrogatory answer.

Interrogatories are often a starting point and are usually coupled with a Notice To Produce.

If a party objects or claims they don’t have knowledge of or access to requested piece of information, the next step is to subpoena whomever does have access to that information.

If the party’s answers appear evasive or dishonest, that party will be deposed in due course.

If you’ve read this far you now realize that Illinois divorce discovery is not easy…and interrogatories are probably the easiest part of Illinois divorce discovery.  So, if you’d like to talk with me about the interrogatories for your Illinois divorce, contact my Chicago, Illinois law firm to speak with an experienced Chicago divorce attorney.

Without further ado, the Illinois Supreme Court Standard Marital Interrogatories.

Matrimonial Interrogatories

1. State your full name, current address, date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number.

2. List all employment held by you during the preceding three years and with regard to each employment state:

(a) The name and address of each employer;

(b) Your position, job title or description;

(c) If you had an employment contract;

(d) The date on which you commenced your employment and, if applicable, the date and reason for the termination of your employment;

(e) Your current gross and net income per pay period;

(f) Your gross income as shown on the last W-2 tax and wage statement received by you, your social security wages as shown on the last W-2 tax and wage statement received by you, and the amounts of all deductions shown thereon; and

(g) All additional benefits or perquisites received from your employment stating the type and value thereof.

3. During the preceding three years, have you had any source of income other than from your employment listed above? If so, with regard to each source of income, state the following:

(a) The source of income, including the type of income and name and address of the source;

(b) The frequency in which you receive income from the source;

(c) The amount of income received by you from the source during the immediately preceding three years; and

(d) The amount of income received by you from the source for each month during the immediately preceding three years.

4. Do you own any interest in real estate? If so, with regard to each such interest state the following:

(a) The size and description of the parcel of real estate, including improvements thereon;

(b) The name, address and interest of each person who has or claims to have an ownership interest in the parcel of real estate;

(c) The date your interest in the parcel of real estate was acquired;

(d) The consideration you transferred or paid for your interest in the parcel of real estate;

(e) Your estimate of the current fair market value of the parcel of real estate and your interest therein; and

(f) The amount of any indebtedness owed on the parcel of real estate and to whom.

5. For the preceding three years, list the names and addresses of all associations, partnerships, corporations, enterprises or entities in which you have an interest or claim any interest, the nature of your interest or claim of interest therein, the amount of percentage of your interest or claim of interest therein, and an estimate of the value of your interest therein.

6. During the preceding three years, have you had any account or investment in any type of financial institution, individually or with another or in the name of another, including checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit and money market accounts? If so, with regard to each such account or investment, state the following:

(a) The type of account or investment;

(b) The name and address of the financial institution;

(c) The name and address of each person in whose name the account is held; and

(d) Both the high and the low balance of the account or investment, stating the date of the high balance and the date of the low balance.

7. During the preceding three years, have you been the holder of or had access to any safety deposit boxes? If so, state the following:

(a) The name of the bank or institution where such box is located;

(b) The number of each box;

(c) A description of the contents of each box during the immediately preceding three years and as of the date of the answer; and

(d) The name and address of any joint or co-owners of such safety deposit box or any trustees holding the box for your benefit.

8. During the immediately preceding three years, has any person or entity held cash or property on your behalf? If so, state:

(a) The name and address of the person or entity holding the cash or property; and

(b) The type of cash or property held and the value thereof.

9. During the preceding three years, have you owned any stocks, bonds, securities or other investments, including savings bonds? If so, with regard to each such stock, bond, security or investment state:

(a) A description of the stock, bond, security or investment;

(b) The name and address of the entity issuing the stock, bond, security or investment;

(c) The present value of such stock, bond, security or investment;

(d) The date of acquisition of the stock, bond, security or investment;

(e) The cost of the stock, bond, security or investment;

(f) The name and address of any other owner or owners in such stock, bond, security or investment; and

(g) If applicable, the date sold and the amount realized therefrom.

10. Do you own or have any incidents of ownership in any life, annuity or endowment insurance policies? If so, with regard to each such policy state:

(a) The name of the company;

(b) The number of the policy;

(c) The face value of the policy;

(d) The present value of the policy;

(e) The amount of any loan or encumbrance on the policy;

(f) The date of acquisition of the policy; and

(g) With regard to each policy, the beneficiary or beneficiaries.

11. Do you have any right, title, claim or interest in or to a pension plan, retirement plan or profit sharing plan, including, but not limited to, individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans and deferred compensation plans? If so, with regard to each such plan state:

(a) The name and address of the entity providing the plan;

(b) The date of your initial participation in the plan; and

(c) The amount of funds currently held on your behalf under the plan.

12. Do you have any outstanding indebtedness or financial obligations, including mortgages, promissory notes, or other oral or written contracts? If so, with regard to each obligation state the following:

(a) The name and address of the creditor;

(b) The form of the obligation;

(c) The date the obligation was initially incurred;

(d) The amount of the original obligation;

(e) The purpose or consideration for which the obligation was incurred;

(f) A description of any security connected with the obligation;

(g) The rate of interest on the obligation;

(h) The present unpaid balance of the obligation;

(i) The dates and amounts of installment payments; and

(j) The date of maturity of the obligation.

13. Are you owed any money or property? If so, state:

(a) The name and address of the debtor;

(b) The form of the obligation;

(c) The date the obligation was initially incurred;

(d) The amount of the original obligation;

(e) The purpose or consideration for which the obligation was incurred;

(f) The description of any security connected with the obligation;

(g) The rate of interest on the obligation;

(h) The present unpaid balance of the obligation;

(i) The dates and amounts of installment payments; and

(j) The date of maturity of the obligation.

14. State the year, make and model of each motor or motorized vehicle, motor or mobile home and farm machinery or equipment in which you have an ownership, estate, interest or claim of interest, whether individually or with another, and with regard to each item state:

(a) The date the item was acquired;

(b) The consideration paid for the item;

(c) The name and address of each other person who has a right, title, claim or interest in or to the item;

(d) The approximate fair market value of the item; and

(e) The amount of any indebtedness on the item and the name and address of the creditor.

15. Have you purchased or contributed towards the payment for or provided other consideration or improvement with regard to any real estate, motorized vehicle, financial account or securities, or other property, real or personal, on behalf of another person or entity other than your spouse during the preceding three years. If so, with regard to each such transaction state:

(a) The name and address of the person or entity to whom you contributed;

(b) The type of contribution made by you;

(c) The type of property to which the contribution was made;

(d) The location of the property to which the contribution was made;

(e) Whether or not there is written evidence of the existence of a loan; and

(f) A description of the written evidence.

16. During the preceding three years, have you made any gift of cash or property, real or personal, to any person or entity not your spouse? If so, with regard to each such transaction state:

(a) A description of the gift;

(b) The value of the gift;

(c) The date of the gift;

(d) The name and address of the person or entity receiving the gift;

(e) Whether or not there is written evidence of the existence of a gift; and

(f) A description of the written evidence.

17. During the preceding three years, have you made any loans to any person or entity not your spouse and, if so, with regard to each such loan state:

(a) A description of the loan;

(b) The value of the loan;

(c) The date of the loan;

(d) The name and address of the person or entity receiving the loan;

(e) Whether or not there is written evidence of the existence of a loan; and

(f) A description of the written evidence.

18. During the preceding three years, have you sold, transferred, conveyed, encumbered, concealed, damaged or otherwise disposed of any property owned by you and/or your spouse individually or collectively? If so, with regard to each item of property state:

(a) A description of the property;

(b) The current location of the property;

(c) The purpose or reason for the action taken by you with regard to the property;

(d) The approximate fair market value of the property;

(e) Whether or not there is written evidence of any such transaction; and

(f) A description of the written evidence.

19. During the preceding three years, have any appraisals been made with regard to any of the property listed by you under your answers to these interrogatories? If so, state:

(a) The name and address of the person conducting each such appraisal;

(b) A description of the property appraised;

(c) The date of the appraisal; and

(d) The location of any copies of each such appraisal.

20. During the preceding three years, have you prepared or has anyone prepared for you any financial statements, net worth statements or lists of assets and liabilities pertaining to your property or financial affairs? If so, with regard to each such document state:

(a) The name and address of the person preparing each such document;

(b) The type of document prepared;

(c) The date the document was prepared; and

(d) The location of all copies of each such document.

21. State the name and address of any accountant, tax preparer, bookkeeper and other person, firm or entity who has kept or prepared books, documents and records with regard to your income, property, business or financial affairs during the course of this marriage.

22. List all nonmarital property claimed by you, identifying each item of property as to the type of property, the date received, the basis on which you claim it is nonmarital property, its location, and the present value of the property.

23. List all marital property of this marriage, identifying each item of property as to the type of property, the basis on which you claim it to be marital property, its location, and the present value of the property.

24. What contribution or dissipation has your spouse made to the marital estate, including but not limited to each of the items or property identified in response to interrogatories No. 22 and No. 23 above, citing specifics, if any, for each item of property?

 25. Pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213(f), provide the name and address of each witness who will testify at trial and all other information required for each witness.

26. Are you in any manner incapacitated or limited in your ability to earn income at the present time? If so, define and describe such incapacity or limitation, and state when such incapacity or limitation commenced and when it is expected to end.

 27. Identify any statements, information and/or documents known to you and requested by any of the foregoing interrogatories which you claim to be work product or subject to any common law or statutory privilege, and with respect to each interrogatory, specify the legal basis for the claim as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 201(n).