If your divorce case goes to litigation, one of the most important things you may encounter is the discovery process. Discovery is based on the idea that there can be no surprise evidence in litigation. Each party has the right to know what evidence will be brought forth before the judge when the case gets to the trial phase. Discovery is the mechanism by which one party can request that information from the other party.
In family law, there are three types of discovery, which all require the party to produce information pertaining to the case.
The first simply is to detail all the people involved in the case, including children directly impacted by the case and even extending to part-time caretakers.
The second is interrogatories, which involves questions that a party might be asked in the process of getting to a divorce settlement. They can be simple questions about your work, your work schedule, who lives in your house, and the like.
The third, which is often the most detailed and the most difficult to get together, deals with a person’s finances, to better determine what assets and debts each party has. While many lawyers (including ours) encourage clients to self-report and to gather financial information as early as possible, discovery compels the party to produce evidence of all assets and debts within 30 days — including, crucially, whatever assets might be held secretly.
The guideline for documentation on items like bank statements and credit card statements is five years’ worth of documents for each account. That can be time-consuming to produce, and yet it’s not a chore than can be put off. The 30-day window, especially for parents juggling work, home life, and the additional demands of divorce, can go by really quickly!
But discovery can’t just be ignored or put off: There are additional costs involved with delay. Someone who lets the 30-day window pass without producing the requested information can face a court order — which the party’s legal team must respond to, which results in a more expensive and time-consuming divorce.
In extreme cases, if a party refuses to comply with discovery, his or her legal team may have no choice but to stop representation. If that person tries to go to court without having complied with discovery, that person has effectively ceded the case to the other party (assuming the other party has been forthcoming in providing information).
People may not want to reveal financial information because it reveals embarrassing things about them and their spending habits. We have represented enough clients to know that what might reflect badly on you in a bank statement or a credit card statement might not be as bad as you think it is. We also know that not complying with discovery is serious, and reflects far more unfavorably on a client in the long run.
At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we’ve helped many clients through the discovery process. We know what to do, and we know how to help clients through it in a way that minimizes the time and worry involved with it. We know it’s serious business, and we take it seriously, but we also know it’s not the easiest process, and we bring that sensitivity into the equation as well.