The Discovery Process

By Curran Skinner

In a divorce, it is often necessary to conduct “discovery,” which is the method by which a party can “discover” information about the other party that is relevant to the divorce.  Conducting discovery allows us to obtain full disclosure of particular facts, such as the parties’ income and liabilities, the value of certain assets and facts relevant to child custody and support issues.

The discovery process can be informal or formal.  Some common discovery methods include interrogatories, requests for disclosure, requests for production of documents, preparation of inventories and depositions.

Interrogatories, requests for disclosure, and requests for production of documents are three types of discovery often served upon a party in conjunction with each other.  Interrogatories and requests for disclosure are written questions requiring written responses from the other party.  Requests for production of documents are written requests to obtain documents from the other party that are relevant to the case, such as bank statements and financial records.  Interrogatories, requests for disclosure and requests for production of documents are served upon the other party (or the other party’s attorney) in writing, and the answers and documents are due back in writing within a certain time frame.

In some cases, it is necessary to prepare what we call inventories and appraisements of each party.  This is a formal list of each and every asset and debt belonging to each of the parties.  This list must be prepared, sworn to and filed with the court.  Inventories and appraisements are helpful tools whereby assets and debts can be valued and then divided between the parties.

It is sometimes necessary for parties to conduct oral depositions to obtain sworn testimony before having a trial before the court.  In an oral deposition, your attorney will ask the other party questions, and his or her answers will be recorded by a stenographer or court reporter.  It is also common for depositions to be videotaped.  Depositions allow the attorneys to gather information from each of the parties while under oath, and usually occur at the office of one of the attorneys.

Which discovery method(s) your attorney uses will depend on a number of factors that he or she will need to discuss with each client.  Each case is individual, and may or may not require some of the discovery methods discussed above.  However, when used, the discovery process can be a very valuable tool to help learn the facts, evaluate a case and work toward a resolution.  If you have questions regarding the discovery process and whether you may need to use some of these methods in your divorce, a Bailey & Galyen attorney will provide you with a free consultation to discuss what may be appropriate for your individual case.

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