Discovery in Divorce Case
“Discovery” in divorce cases is a legal process to obtain important information during divorce, legal separation or dissolution. It is used by the spouses to gather information from each other or from third party sources like employers or banks. The formal discovery process begins once the couple initiate legal proceedings and it continues till the case is settled or it reaches the pre-trial discovery deadline, which mostly occurs 60 days before the first day of the trial.
Discovery could also be used after divorce, legal separation or dissolution by former spouses to get relevant information about ongoing issues like spousal and child support, alimony, maintenance etc. it could also be used to obtain necessary information for post-divorce enforcement, modification or termination matters.
Discovery, in divorce cases can be used to get a lot of information. There are 5 discovery tools that are mostly used by lawyers. These tools comprises of Releases, Requests, Subpoenas, Interrogatories and Depositions.
- Releases: These are legal documents that authorize third person or organizations to release or produce records and documents to the couple, their lawyers or any other designated recipient. When spouses do not possess or find necessary information such as bank statements or tax returns, Releases are mostly used. There are certain agencies such as IRS that have standardized forms to request copies of tax returns on file. Releases are great tools which are very useful in collecting missing documents and records.
- Subpoenas: These are legal documents that order a witness to appear or a custodian of records to give information on a particular date and time. Subpoenas are usually served by a process server or a sheriff well in advance of the deadline for the production of documents as well as the appearance of the witnesses. Subpoenas are mainly used by one spouse to obtain testimony and information from a third party when the other spouse refuses to sign a Release.
- Requests: These are mainly standardized formal written request made by one spouse to the other to produce the relevant documents. Requests could be very lengthy and may require the production of documents dated during, before and after the official end of marriage. As the need for more information arises, a person could make several ‘Requests’ during the discovery process in divorce, legal separation or dissolution.
- Interrogatories: These are standardized formal written requests made by one spouse to the other to give true answers to his/hers relevant questions. Interrogatories, like Requests could be very lengthy and may include questions that cover issues and events arising during, before and after the official end of the marriage.
- Depositions: These are sworn testimony taken under an oath in front of a court reporter who records every question, answer and comment made by the deposition participants. The participants include a spouse, lawyer or an expert. Depositions are mainly conducted in attorney’s office and could last a few hours or several days depending upon the subject matter.
The methods and types of ‘discovery’ in divorce cases depend on the circumstances and facts of a case. The informal exchange of information and releases could be sufficient. If still trust doesn’t exist between the spouses then anyone could use the above discussed discovery tools.
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