In Divorce and child custody cases, Interrogatories are a common discovery tool. Interrogatories can help a party to obtain information that is needed to reach a favorable settlement, or to take the case to trial.
Interrogatories are written questions that are answered in writing by the party to whom they are sent. Generally speaking, the attorneys for each party in a divorce or custody case will draft Interrogatories that ask useful questions about the particular case and issues in that case, and send the questions to the recipient’s attorney. A party will then have an amount of time set by the rules of civil procedure (often 28 days in Illinois and often 30 days in Iowa) to answer.
The specific questions that are asked will depend upon the issues in the case. For example, divorce case where custody is at issue and there has been domestic violence will likely have questions centering upon that domestic abuse. A custody case will likely include Interrogatories addressing proposed physical care and visitation schedules, and how each party intends to care for the child. Many cases where there are financial issues, such as child support, will involve Interrogatories that address income and expenses. Properly drafted Interrogatories are part of a comprehensive discovery plan that allows a case to be properly prepared for trial or settlement.
Answers to Interrogatories are treated as sworn statements by the rules of civil procedure in both Iowa and Illinois, meaning that a person’s answers to Interrogatories are like answers given in court. A person who is dishonest in their Interrogatories can be punished with a perjury or contempt of court charge.
Failing to comply with Interrogatories by not answering them or providing incomplete or incorrect answers can cause a person significant harm to their case. A party that does not comply with discovery can be made to pay the other side’s attorney fees as a punishment for that failure, and can be barred from introducing evidence or calling witnesses at trial.