During the divorce process, there’s a constant back-and-forth flow. Depending on your situation, it may be like pulling teeth to get what you need, but there’s a lot of evidence and information that changes hands. This part of the process is called discovery. It’s a key piece of all legal cases, including divorce.
Even though courtroom dramas on TV and in movies are fond of “gotcha” moments where one attorney calls a surprise witness or reveals a shocking new detail, that’s not really how it works. Courts try to place litigants on a relatively even playing field. As such, there are rules and regulations about access to relevant evidence.
Almost every case requires at least some discovery. Unless you have a simple, straightforward marriage, and both parties agree on everything. How much varies from one case to the next. Discovery not only impacts trial, but also mediation, arbitration, and negotiations. It’s a big part of preparing for your divorce case. Through discovery, each side reveals what evidence they have and plan to use. This allows both sides to see the strength of the opposition’s case and adequately prepare for what lies ahead.
The information you gather during discovery involves anything pertinent to your case. This includes financial documents, bank statements, property records, insurance policies, retirement benefits, and more. You can also accumulate witness statements and documents related to your claims.
A number of discovery tools exist to help you gather valuable information. Here are five common means of gathering evidence.
1. Interrogatories In Discovery
In discovery, as it pertains to divorce, interrogatories form a key part of the process. These are written questions from one party to the other. The respondent must answer these in writing and under oath, and participants then use the information at trial. While these can cover any topic, from very broad to quite specific, they often revolve around finances. In many cases, the answering spouse must substantiate claims using medical records, bank statements, and similar documents.
2. Depositions In Discovery
On the other side of this coin, depositions are in-person testimony, also given under oath. An attorney questions an individual and can then use the recorded responses later. These are often the spouses involved in the divorce case, but they’re also often third parties, like expert witnesses. Like a trial, in depositions, opposing counsel has the opportunity to cross-examine and even object.
3. Requests For Production Of Documents
In most cases, divorce involves a ton of paperwork and documents passing back and forth from side to side. You need access to your ex’s records, your ex needs access to yours, and so on. As such, requests for production of documents often play a big role in discovery in divorce. These requests can refer to a specific record or an entire category of records. For instance, your ex may request a single bank statement or all of your bank statements.
4. Releases Of Information
During discovery in divorce, you may also need the releases of information from various sources. In order to gain access to relevant information, you can subpoena and even businesses or institutions. If you need medical records or bank statements, this is one way to get them. Employment and income information also often fall into this section.
5. Requests For Admissions
Either side has the right to request documents and other evidence during discovery in divorce. It’s also possible to compel the other party to authenticate certain pieces of information. Requests for admissions can demand one party to admit a statement is truthful or that a document is legitimate. When certain facts become recognized as valid, the spouses can then focus on the actual disputes.
These are a few of the primary tools used in the discovery portion of divorce cases. Just like in most legal matters, it probably protects your best interest to hire an experienced divorce lawyer. An attorney can guide you through the discovery as well as the other specifics of ending a marriage.
If you have questions about divorce, contact Goldberg Jones at our Seattle office.