Rule 26 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure deals with discovery. Discovery is simply the method of gathering information from the opposing party. During a divorce, Rule 26.1 applies. This requires both parties, without being asked, to provide a financial declaration with supporting documents such as pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns. This is to ensure that both parties are able to negotiate their rights with a complete understanding of the financial circumstances of the other party.
Preparing the financial declaration is generally the most burdensome endeavor that the client will have to undergo. It is important the financial declaration be supported with the right documents and accurate. Many judges and commissioners will continue a hearing if you have not complied with Rule 26. For instance, if you are requesting alimony, but you don’t file with the Court a copy of your financial declaration, you can be all but certain the commissioner will “reserve” the issue of alimony until full compliance with Rule 26. That just means that the commissioner is not going to make a ruling at that time. You need to file your financial declaration and then request another hearing.
Providing thorough disclosures helps you in many ways. First, it helps your divorce lawyer know more about your circumstances. Second, when you follow the rules and do a good job, you build credibility with the Court. When you are able to provide the judge with a clean, well-prepared financial declaration, you instantly gain some credibility. Many Utah divorce lawyers try to artificially inflate numbers on the financial declaration, claiming that their client’s expenses are higher than they really are. This is a mistake. For example, if you claim $400 in gasoline per month but you drive a Toyota Prius, do you think the judge or commissioner will think that you are being honest? That means you are driving around 6,000 miles a month or 200 miles a day, every single day.
On the other hand, NEVER claim that your expenses are lower than they really are. This could potentially lock you into either paying a large alimony award or not receiving an alimony award big enough to cover your expenses (depending on whether you are going to be the payee or payor of alimony).
This is why it is so important to be accurate and honest in your disclosures. A good divorce lawyer can defend the truth, there is no need to fudge the numbers.