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Time to talk about one of the most despised aspects of a family law matter – the financial discovery. When family law attorneys talk about “discovery,” they are referencing the request of financial documentation (and the list of financial questions) to be answered by the opposing side during the process of a divorce, parentage, or other family law matter that involves financials. Basically, during these cases a duty exists to find out (“discover”) what the other side has by way of assets and debts; if an attorney does not diligently complete discovery, there may be consequences.

So when your attorney sends you the financial affidavit, do it. I know it is a daunting task (I have done one for myself for use as a budget) but there are certain local court rules that require it’s completion in a timely manner. And if you want to ask for support or fees from the other side, any petition that is filed asking for that type of relief must attach a financial affidavit (in Kane County, it is called a “Comprehensive Financial Statement,” in McHenry and Lake Counties it is called an “11.02 Financial Affidavit,” in DuPage County it is called a “Financial Disclosure Statement, and in Cook County it is called a “13.3 Disclosure Statement.” When you complete this, attach tax returns, three paystubs and the documents you used in completing the document (utility bills and statements for all accounts) at a minimum.

When your attorney sends you discovery requests from the other side, know that you have 28 days within which to complete them. Don’t delay – get to work on them immediately because you need to give your attorney’s office time to organize the responses into a formalized fashion for production. If the responses aren’t completed in the timeframe allotted, the opposing side may ask for sanctions, including financial penalties.

The moral of the story here is that you need to do the work in order to bring your case to a point where real financial movement (settlement negotiations or litigation) can take place. It is the job of your attorney and his or her staff to guide you through the discovery, but we can’t tell you about your financial picture, only you can do that. And with that, I will step down from my soapbox.