24 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive, Suite D2000
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
By: Wendy Alton, Divorce Attorney at Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C.
Divorces can be expensive, especially when one spouse has to conduct extensive discovery, or in other words, send the other spouse numerous requests for information about their income and assets. While some spouses openly share this type of information, some don’t, and the lack of sharing information can be one of the leading causes of higher attorney fees.
The Michigan Supreme Court recently revised three Michigan Court Rules to streamline and simplify the exchange of financial information in divorces. Effective January 1, 2020, divorcing spouses must now automatically provide full financial disclosures under oath of their employment, income, assets and debts. You’re also limited in the type of discovery you can use, and discovery use or abuse can be a basis for a request for attorney fees.
First, MCR 3.206(C) was revised to include a provision that within 28 days of the filing of the Answer to the Complaint for Divorce, divorcing spouses must fill out and exchange a Domestic Relations Verified Financial Information Form.
This form requires full disclosures of employment, income, assets, and debts. It must be signed under oath in the presence of a notary. The form also requires that documentation must be attached: recent paystubs and tax returns, and recent statements for credit card or loan accounts.
Second, MCR 3.201(C) was revised to include a limitation on formal discovery in the form of interrogatories. Interrogatories are a type of discovery in which formal written questions are submitted to the other spouse. In the past, you could send as many interrogatories as desired (within reason), divorcing couples are now limited to 35 interrogatories.
Third, MCR 3.206(D) was revised to allow for a request and award for attorney fees for spouses who lack the ability to pay for appropriate discovery, and for spouses who are on the receiving end of discovery conducted in violation of the Michigan Court Rules.
The revisions to the discovery process should help move cases along more quickly as the exchange of financial information is required early in the case. It should also help you conserve costs within your divorce, particularly as those costs are usually paid out of the joint marital estate. It should also help clarify the grounds for the basis of attorney fee requests. Divorce is a stressful process, and these not so minor court rule revisions should help alleviate some of that stress.
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