Divorce, Discovery and Lessons from the 1996 hit movie Jerry Maguire

By Nancy L. Rommelmann, Family Law Attorney –

If you recall the now timeless dialogue that took place between Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) and Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in the movie Jerry Maguire, you’ll know this could be a conversation during the first meeting you have with a divorce attorney!

Your attorney says/you say to your attorney:

1. “Show me the money!”

You want your attorney to get as much for you as they can.

Conundrum – When you don’t have access to the finances (assets and debts), what do you do?

Attorneys use the discovery process, which is a legal mechanism designed to obtain information about either party to the divorce. The following methods can be used.

Many counties have what is referred to as “local rules” (rules specific to that county) which can require mandatory preliminary disclosures requiring the parties to exchange the last three pay stubs, the last two years of income tax returns and a list of assets and debts.

Attorneys can send “discovery” that can be in the form of “Interrogatories” (questions asked to the other party which must be responded to “under oath”), “Request for Production” (a document request) and “Requests for Disclosure” (includes identification of the parties, possible third parties, witnesses and legal theories).

Your attorney can subpoena your spouse’s employer to determine monies in savings and retirement plans, stock options, other assets and benefits.

Other discovery procedures that can be used are Requests for Admissions, Depositions or Depositions on Written Questions.

2. “Help me help you!”

Help your attorney and reduce your legal fees by creating an inventory (an excel spreadsheet is a great tool) of your assets and debts. Typically, do not list “pots and pans,” household items and furniture unless you have works of art or antique furniture of great value. Discuss the latter with your attorney because these items might need to be appraised.

Give your attorney statements from financial institutions, organized chronologically, including credit cards, retirement statements, etc.

“I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU!” – Jerry Maguire