During a divorce, you may be asked by your attorney to provide an enormous amount of documents in what is referred to as “discovery.” Discovery is a process that is utilized by attorneys to formally exchange information about a case to ensure that everyone has equal footing. Cooperating in the discovery process by providing credible evidence about income, expenses, financial account balances, etc. not only provides a full financial disclosure but can also speed up the divorce process and reduce unnecessary costs.
There are many different types of discovery that can be used in cases with issues of property distribution, child custody, spousal support and child support. These discovery methods include:
- Interrogatories – Written questions to be answered.
- Request for Production of Documents – Documents to be provided.
- Request for Admissions – Written questions to be admitted to or denied.
- Depositions Upon Oral Examination – Sworn testimony given under oath.
- Subpoenas – Formal request for documents, typically to a third party, outside of the lawsuit.
- Requests for Entry Upon Land – Requests to inspect the property.
- Physical and/or Mental Examinations – Examination of the other party, or children, such as psychological evaluations.
In family law matters the most common discovery requests come in the form of interrogatories and request for production of documents. These requests generally ask for information and documents dating back 3-5 years prior to the separation. By asking for a period of time prior to the separation it can reveal actions that a party may have taken to hide assets, create business losses or other bad faith behaviors. Each case has its own individual circumstances that will determine what discovery is necessary. In some instances, some requests asked may be overly intrusive and/or irrelevant. Your attorney will determine if an objection is appropriate and what to provide to remain in compliance. Failure to comply with the discovery process can have various consequences such as legal fines and exclusion of valuable evidence.
Although the discovery process may seem like an invasion of your privacy, it is a vital part of your case. Cooperatively exchanging documents provides everyone with the necessary facts to work toward a settlement. When settlement is not possible, it can provide an opportunity to narrow down the issues to be addressed at trial. Pinpointing issues in dispute saves time and resources that may have been wasted on issues that are no longer relevant, which directly saves you from incurring unnecessary attorney fees.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. This article reflects the opinions of the author based on North Carolina law in effect at the time of posting.