Divorce Discovery: Exchange of Documents and Information
Soon after filing a divorce petition and response, a couple will need to exchange information. This exchange of information is known as the discovery process. The initial disclosures of information will be a critical part of the discovery process.
In some states, the parties must produce a complete financial declaration, with documentation of income, debt, property ownership, etc., as part of their initial disclosures.
The divorce discovery process can be an informal exchange of information, or it can follow a rigid procedure.
Requests for Production of Documents
Each divorce attorney will prepare a request for document production. This document asks the other party to provide additional financial information. It can also ask for other documents that could arguably relate to the divorce. There may be documents relating to the fitness of a parent, or the medical or educational needs of a child. The request for document production can be specific to the issues of concern to the couple.
Interrogatories and Requests for Admission
Interrogatories are questions posed to the other spouse in writing that also must be answered in writing and under oath. The attorney wants to understand their version of the facts, as well as their demands. These questions can be pre-printed "form" interrogatories, or they can be questions specific to the case, called "special" interrogatories.
Questions can range from the broad ("Describe your current relationship with your children") to the specific ("Is it your position that respondent's taxable income for 2018 was $60,000?"). If a question isn't fair or is difficult to understand, the other party may object to the question.
Requests for admission ask a party to admit or deny certain facts. Requests for admission are not often used in divorce discovery, but they can be very powerful tools. Failure to answer a request for admission, or providing a false answer, can result in penalties.
One of the more costly penalties could be an award of attorney's fees. This would pay for the spouse's attorney having to dig up evidence and prove in court particular facts that the other party was requested to admit but failed to do so without a legitimate reason.
Depositions in a Divorce
Depositions are sworn statements made in front of a court reporter in response to an attorney's questions. The answers are transcribed and provided to both parties. A deposition interview can range in length from an hour to a week, or even longer.
There are two reasons to conduct a deposition:
- To see what evidence and arguments the other side has
- To do a practice trial to see how a witness will conduct themselves before a judge or jury
Two things to remember when being deposed:
- Never guess: The purpose of a deposition is to obtain facts, not to speculate on what might have happened.
- Resist the impulse to explain things: It's the opposing side's job to get the answers. Offering additional information without being asked is unnecessary and may damage one's case.
Things to Remember About Divorce Discovery
It's very likely that anything and everything will come out at some point in the discovery process. Be honest with your divorce attorney about the facts and documents that may come out. They can't do their best job if you don't disclose everything.
Be honest during the discovery process. Nothing will make your position in a divorce case worse than getting caught lying, hiding assets, or understating income.
Learn More About Divorce Discovery from an Attorney
Divorce is rough for all parties, but an experienced divorce attorney can guide you through the process. Your divorce lawyer will handle the initial exchange of documents and the discovery phase of the divorce. Find a local, experienced divorce attorney near you.
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