Do I Have to Do Discovery?

Most people understand that the legal process has many rules and important procedural steps.  Family law is no exception to this.  Any family law case will begin with filing a petition with the court requesting specific relief, such as a divorce or a modification of a current custody order.  One step that happens in most contested cases is discovery.  Discovery is the process whereby each party can ask questions and obtain evidence from the other party.  There are several different types of discovery, including both written discovery and in person discovery, which is also called a deposition.  During discovery, the attorneys for each side may ask for any documents or ask for answers to any question which may reasonably lead to admissible evidence.  This means that the attorneys can both cast extremely broad nets.  Although discovery can lead to very important evidence, the extra time and expense associated with the process may ask many people to wonder whether they actually must do discovery.

Discovery is a totally optional process, and it is not required to send discovery to the other party in any case.  If the parties each have access to the exact same information, such as bank statements or copies of their mortgage, it is possible for them to agree to skip discovery.  This is the most common in uncontested divorces, where the parties have already agreed on the way the divorce will be settled.  It is also possible that the parties can agree to limit discovery to only the outstanding issues.  For example, if the only issue that you and your spouse have to take to the court is that of division of assets, it is possible to agree only to do discovery on issues relating to that and skip the questions that would, for example, relate to child custody.

A related issue is also whether you are required to answer discovery if you have not sent any to the other side.  The answer to this question is yes.  Even if you elect not to conduct discovery, this will not change your obligation under the rules of civil procedure to answer to discovery that was sent to you.  The very nature of family law means that the subject matter of the litigation will be very personal and can feel overly intrusive.  Even though discovery allows people to ask a wide variety of questions, if the questions are completely irrelevant, unduly burdensome, or asked solely for the purpose of harassment, your attorney can file a motion asking that you not be required to answer certain questions.

We have extensive experience in helping our clients understand all processes in their divorce or family law case. Call us today at 651-413-9568 to talk about your case.