In court cases, information flows back and forth between both sides. This disclosure of the information is called discovery and forms a key part of any legal action. This includes divorce and family law matters.
A lot of time, effort, and attention to detail go into a divorce. Despite the big “gotcha” moments so popular in movies and legal dramas on TV, the court system tries to place litigants on relatively even footing. This means ensuring each party has access to any relevant evidence.
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What is Discovery?
Requesting discovery often forms a key part of the preparation for a divorce. A painstaking process that adds both time and expense, in contested cases, it may prove incredibly valuable. Discovery compels each side to reveal what evidence and information they have.
This allows you to better prepare for court, know what you’re up against, and often increases the chances of reaching a settlement.
Discovery allows you and your attorney to gather any information pertinent to your case. This includes collecting witness statements, accumulating related documents, and generally seeing the strength of the opposition’s case.
There are a number of tools you can use in discovery to obtain beneficial information.
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In discovery, interrogatories are written questions from one spouse to the other. The respondent answers both in writing and under oath, and the responses then come into play in a trial.
Most commonly, these questions relate to finances, but they can be about any topic and range from broad to specific. These requests may require the answering spouse to produce corroborating documents, like bank statements or medical reports.
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While interrogatories are written inquiries, a deposition is an oral, in-person testimony also given under oath. An attorney questions one party, and the responses are recorded—usually by a court reporter or video, or both—then used in court.
The opposing side’s attorney has the opportunity to cross-examine and lawyers can also make objections. Deponents, as they’re called, can be the spouses directly involved in the case or third parties, like expert witnesses.
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A subpoena is a written court order that compels an individual to do something. Most often this means either appearing in court to testify or turning over physical evidence. This includes producing documents, records, and even digital files for use in the case.
There are three types of subpoenas in discovery:
- A Civil Subpoena for Personal Appearance at Trial or Hearing: This demands an individual who is not part of the case to appear and provide testimony.
- A Subpoena for Production of Business Records: As the title implies, this type orders a non-party to deliver business records for use in the case.
- A Deposition Subpoena for Personal Appearance and Production of Documents and Things: Again, the name provides most of what you need to know. This orders a nonparticipant to appear and testify, deliver records, or produce other evidence.
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4. Requests For Production Of Documents
Requests for production of documents often play a part in discovery in divorce cases. They request that one party delivers relevant records and paperwork for the inspection. This can refer to a specific single document, but it can also include an entire class of documents. For example, you can request a particular bank statement or all bank statements.
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5. Requests For Admissions
While you can request documents or other evidence during discovery, you can also compel the other party to admit a statement is true or a specific document is genuine.
A request for admissions accomplishes this by verifying the authenticity of the information in question.
The subsequent trial then uses written responses to these entreaties. With certain facts on the table and recognized as valid, it allows the participants to focus on what is actually in dispute.
These are just a few of the tools you can use during the discovery stage of divorce. As in most legal cases, hiring a lawyer will likely be in your best interest.
An experienced divorce attorney can guide you through the methodical, convoluted discovery process. A steady hand helps keep you aware of the rules and regulations, like restrictions on the number of discovery requests you can make.
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