What is a “Subpoena” for records and when should it be used?


A Subpoena is a formal request for documents. A case must be active in order for a subpoena to be issued against an entity. Subpoenas are sent to any sort of recorder keeper to request documents and records; Subpoenas are commonly sent in family law related cases to entities, including, but not limited to: employers, banks, credit card companies, utility companies, retirement plan administrators, and many, many other places. Subpoenas are used either when the opposing party does not have copies of documents and cannot reasonably obtain them, or, if the opposing party is refusing to tender documents that were requested.

Usually, the most cost effective way to obtain discovery is by issuing requests to the opposing party for completion of interrogatories and/or production of certain documents. When discovery is complied with, it saves significant expense. If a party refuses to respond or turn the documents over, a Subpoena is something to consider. On one hand, assuming that the entity does business in that state of Illinois, they almost always will have to comply (with certain exceptions). On the other hand, there is usually a Subpoena Fee that has to be tendered to the entity as well as copying and research charges. Subpoena results can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars in copying and research costs depending upon how long it takes the entity to locate the documents requested and what they charge for copies. This may or may not be cost effective, and whether or not it is actually cost effective is highly dependent upon your financial resources and the circumstances of your case.

The costs for subpoenas may be recoverable from the opposing party, but that also depends upon the circumstances of your case. Subpoenas are a very useful tool in some cases, but they are not right for everyone’s use.

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