Written Discovery Basics

A woman writes in a file at a desk covered in papers and a glass of water.Although divorce, custody, and other family law cases deal with the most personal details of the lives of the parties involved, they arise as a part of a lawsuit and are subject to the same rules as other court cases.  As with other proceedings, the parties have the right to obtain information about and from the other side through a process called “discovery.”  During discovery, your attorney can obtain information from the other side through either oral discovery, also called a deposition, or written discovery.  Written discovery can take several forms.

One of the most common forms of written discovery are Interrogatories.  Interrogatories are a set of written questions that your attorney sends to the other side’s attorney.  These written questions can cover an enormous span of issues, ranging from the hours your spouse typically works at his or her job to why he or she believes that his or her proposal for parenting time is in the children’s best interest.  These questions must be answered under oath.  This means that if your soon-to-be-former spouse lies or omits certain important facts, he or she can face harsh consequences.

Another common written discovery tool is called Requests for Production of Documents.  These require the other side to produce copies of the documents requested.  Common documents requested in family law cases include financial documents, such as 401(k) statements and pension benefit information.  It can also include paycheck stubs, past tax returns, and documents associated with a family business.  There are limits, however, to what will be considered reasonable for these requests.  Asking for forty years of bank statements, for example, will likely be found to be unduly burdensome and an objection raised to such a request will likely be sustained.

From the date that your attorney is served with these requests, you will have thirty days to compile your answers and respond.  It is possible for your attorney to object to producing certain answers or documents, if, for example, such information is subject to some sort of professional privilege or is not likely to lead to admissible evidence.  A judge will then decide whether you will be required to produce the information despite your objection.  Discovery is often an essential tool during family law cases because it allows lawyers to determine what comprises the marital estate and what type of evidence the other side intends to use at trial.

If you are facing a family law case, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact us today at (651) 371-9117 and let us work with you to reach your goals.