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Help!! What Documents Do I Need For My Divorce?

A friend of a friend complained about having to do something called "discovery" for her divorce.  She was confused and overwhelmed about what she needed to gather.

Discovery can be very basic, just questions and answers (interrogatories).  Usually when one spouse sends this to the other, the other one responds with his/her own set of interrogatories.  It's important to answer these questions within the time period (30 days).  You can answer them as much as possible on your own to save legal fees, but remember to give your draft answers to your attorney, who will make sure that you are not saying anything that could be hurtful. 

A friend of a friend complained about having to do something called "discovery" for her divorce. She was confused and overwhelmed about what she needed to gather.

Discovery can be very basic, just questions and answers (interrogatories). Usually when one spouse sends this to the other, the other one responds with his/her own set of interrogatories. It's important to answer these questions within the time period (30 days). You can answer them as much as possible on your own to save legal fees, but remember to give your draft answers to your attorney, who will make sure that you are not saying anything that could be hurtful.

The other type of discovery that can be included with interrogatories is known as Request for Production of Documents. It is exactly as it sounds, a request for you to give copies of documents that your spouse asks for. Although this can be a lot of work, it can pay off in the end if you end up going to court, as you will already have your hands on the documents the court needs to see. Again, please provide the documents (statements showing values) to your attorney who will make sure that you are giving what is requested.

Here are the basics you need to know:

- what are the big ticket items you own (worth at least $500) (you, spouse and joint)

- what are the debts you owe (you, your spouse and joint)

- when did you buy or acquire those big ticket items

- tax returns (last 3 years) and pay stubs (last 6 months)

- anything being held for the benefit of your children (will not be included in divorce, but you still need to identify it)

Get a physical copy of a statement for each of those assets and debts both currently and at the date you separated. Your separation may be a long period of time, and things could increase or decrease in value.

Other things that may or may not need to be done include a valuation of your pension plan/401(k)/IRA, an appraisal of your home or other property. Speak to your attorney about these items, which require the services of experts such as an actuary or appraiser.

All of the above information applies when there is formal discovery filed through the court. Informal discovery is the process in which both attorneys request documents from their clients and agree to exchange them outside of court, to save time and money. If informal discovery is not complete (spouse believes the other is hiding something), it can then lead to formal discovery.

Finally, if you do eventually have to argue your case in court, you will need 3-4 copies of all of the above documents - one for you, one for your spouse, one for the master or judge and one for the court reporter. It is helpful to plot out all of the assets, debts and values into a spreadsheet, which helps to paint a clearer financial picture for everyone. You can't negotiate unless you know everything you have.

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Law Offices of Catherine Cardozo, LLC
1147 Easton Rd.
Abington, PA 19001

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