Attorney fees and expenses can quickly accumulate to overwhelming amounts in contested divorce cases. Each week, I will provide you with a tip on how to reduce the cost of your divorce.
TIP #3. DO YOUR OWN DISCOVERY
The Utah Rules of Civil Procedure set forth the specific requirements for conducting discovery in divorcecases. Pursuant to Rules 26 and 26.1, you are required to identify all potential witness, provide copies of documents that may be used in your case and complete a Financial Declaration within 14-28 days after a Petition for Divorce and Answer have been filed. Thereafter, the parties may conduct additional discovery to obtain additional records and information that may be useful at trial. Pursuant to Rule 26, each party to a divorce may take 15 hours of depositions and submit 10 interrogatories, 10 requests for production and 10 requests for admission.
Gathering and organizing contact information, bank statements, pay stubs, tax information and bills does not require any technical legal knowledge. However, discovery – the process of gathering, redacting and exchanging records – can be one of the most time consuming and expensive aspects of divorce. To keep costs down, you should do as much of the work as possible without the assistance of your attorney.
The first step is completing a Financial Declaration. You can find a form Financial Declaration on the Resources page of the Intermountain Legal website. Work through each page of the Financial Declaration. Be careful to calculate monthly averages correctly and avoid manipulating the numbers (read more about using the right numbers here). Rule 26.1 requires that you attach statements verifying the amounts you have listed in your Financial Declaration. You are required to attach the following:
- Complete federal and state tax returns for the past two years, filed by or on behalf of you and any business in which you have ownership interest;
- Pay stubs or other proof of earned and unearned income for the past 12 months;
- Loan applications and financial statements prepared by or for you within the last 12 months;
- An appraisal, tax valuation, mortgage statement or other documents verifying the value of any real property owned by you;
- Past three months of statements for all checking, savings, money market, brokerage, investment and retirement accounts in your name or in which you have interest;
- Recent statements from all credit card or other debt accounts, showing the total amount outstanding and the monthly payment.
You have easy access to your discoverable financial information. Your attorney does not. Put together all of the required financial records and any other records that may be helpful in resolving your divorce issues before turning your Financial Declaration over to your attorney. Organize the records to make it easier for your attorney to review your numbers and calculations.
If possible, use white out, a black marker or a computer program such as Adobe Acrobat to redact your private information. All divorce cases are private thanks to a new law that became effective in April, 2012. However, attorneys are still very careful about filing or exchanging private information about their client’s lives. The following information should be redacted from records before they are filed:
- Social security numbers, except for the last four digits;
- Financial or other account numbers, except for the last four digits;
- Driver’s license numbers, except for the state of issuance and last four digits;
- Address of a non-party, except for the city, state and zip code;
- Dates of birth of a non-party, except for the month and year of birth; and
- Minor’s names, except for the first, middle and last initials.
You retained your attorney to provide you with expert legal advice. There is no reason why you should pay your attorney to labor over secretarial tasks. Streamline the discovery process by providing records when asked, organizing your records in a clear manner and redacting records. If you have time to assist in your own discovery, you will shave hours of attorney fees off the total cost of your case.
The experienced family law attorney at Intermountain Legal can answer your questions about what is discoverable in a divorce or custody action, how to present your information to the court and how to calculate monthly expenses and monthly support. If you have become buried in the discovery process and need legal advice, contact Hailey Black for your free 30 minute divorce consultation.