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Discovery during divorce: Not just a personal journey

Photo of Karen Lavin


For many Illinoisans, divorce is a study in transformation. He or she starts as one person and finishes as a different one. In part, this transformation is because of the journey of personal discovery that divorce takes most people through. But personal discovery is not the only kind of discovery that goes on during a divorce: Illinoisans also need to go through legal discovery.

Discovery of the legal variety is the process for exchanging divorce-related information between the separating spouses. This process can be informal (if cooperation is possible) or formal (if cooperation has evaporated). Under the informal process, the parties can simply exchange relevant documents. Under the formal process, the parties exchange information in response to various types of legally-binding requests.

Perhaps the most common form of request is "document production." Document production, as the name indicates, involves each spouse providing the other spouse any document they have that may have even a small connection to the divorce process, especially if the document is related to alimony, child custody, child support or property division.

A second method is for one spouse to send the other spouse written questions that must be answered. These questions come in two flavors: "interrogatories" and "requests for admission." Interrogatories are a list of questions seeking more information about the other spouse's demands and views of the facts. Requests for admission contain a list of facts that the other spouse must admit or deny.

A third method is a "live" question-and-answer session -- called a "deposition" between a spouse and the other spouse's attorney. Normally, these sessions are used to collect information and to see how the other spouse is as a witness, for example how he or she might do in front of a judge or jury.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Exchange of Documents and Information - 'Discovery'," Accessed on Sept. 22, 2014

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