- by Mary Montgomery
- in Divorce
Shortly after a couple files the initial court papers to start the process of divorce, they will exchange information regarding their respective financial, economic, and personal situations, including what property they own, what debt they have, and their income. This exchange of information is called discovery.
The information exchanged during discovery will be used by the attorneys and the court to determine how to fairly divide up property and determine things like spousal and child support. The discovery can take place through an informal exchange of documents between the attorneys and clients, or it can follow a more rigid, court-ordered process. There are several types of discovery. They include, but may not be limited to, the following:
Request for Documents
Generally, spouses will be asked to provide copies of tangible and electronically filed financial records, account statements, electronic records including emails (even deleted emails), cell phone records, journals, diaries, tax returns, insurance policies, and any other relevant documents that either spouse has that can be secured through the exercise of proper diligence and that may be of assistance to the courts when determining the outcome of the case.
Interrogatories and Request for Admissions
Interrogatories are questions requiring either spouse’s version of the facts and support for his or her demands. Questions can range from specific questions to broad and open-ended questions. If the questions are not fair or are difficult to understand, a knowledgeable attorney can help you determine how to answer them or if you should answer them at all.
Requests for admission are not commonly used in divorce cases, but when they are used, they can be a powerful tool. These requests ask a party to admit or deny certain facts pertaining to the divorce or issues that arise during the divorce. They can carry penalties for failure to answer, answering falsely, or not answering in a timely manner.
Depositions are sworn statements where a person will answer questions from an attorney while a court reporter makes a transcription of everything that is said. This type of discovery can last for just an hour or up to a week or more. Although all attorneys have their own strategy when it comes to depositions, they typically use them to either see what the other side has to say, or to do a practice trial to see how witnesses will conduct themselves before a judge.
If you are asked to take part in a deposition, your attorney will tell you what to expect. As a general rule, however, do not ever make speculations about a situation or what might have happened, and do not offer more details than necessary.
Get Help from an Attorney
Keep in mind that everything will likely come out during the discovery process, especially if the case becomes contentious and emotions run high. It is important that you be completely honest with your attorney about the facts and documents that may be discovered. Your attorney can not do his or her best job without the truth, and nothing will make you look worse in court than being caught in a lie.
Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but having an experienced attorney guide you through the process can make it much easier than tryin to handle it on your own. A knowledgeable attorney like those at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor can smoothly handle all of the discovery proceedings and spot problems before they begin to help ensure your financial security and your future.