Discovery is the legal term for the exchange of information between parties to a lawsuit during the course of litigation. The parties must comply with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure in what information they ask for, how they ask for it and how long the responding party is given to provide the relevant information.
Discovery in divorce cases is important in order to insure that settlements are fair and that the court makes its decisions based on all relevant information. If you are in the process of a divorce, be prepared to turn your life into an open book. Most all personal information is discoverable by your soon-to-be ex-spouse. If it is later discovered that you intentionally withheld information from your spouse during this discovery process, you may be sanctioned by the court.
Information that is Discoverable in a Divorce Case
The easy answer to what is discoverable in a divorce case is, “Everything!” Specifically, either party may find out from the other one information about:
- All financial transactions, bank accounts, tax returns, business records, list of all assets and liabilities, value based on a family owned business or professional practice.
- All correspondence and phone records. This includes social media postings.
- Medical records and history, including records of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction that may have a bearing on child custody.
- Any sexual problems or unusual behaviors or affairs.
- Information and witness testimony concerning parenting skills.
- Expert opinions concerning relevant topics is discoverable, for example, how to place a value on a family owned business or which parent is most likely to foster a relationship with the other.
You may wonder how this information is discovered. Here is an overview of the discovery phases and methods that both parties use during the divorce process.
Phases of Formal Discovery
Interrogatories: These are a list of written questions one party asks the other one to answer. All questions must be answered under oath and the answers may be used as evidence in court proceedings.
Requests for Admission: These are just what they sound like. One party asks the other to admit certain things.
Requests for Production of Documents: This may be for bank records, tax returns, and any discoverable written records that exist.
Subpoenas: A subpoena orders one party to provide either documents or testimony to the other. If the party who receives the subpoena believes it oversteps what is required by law, the party objecting must go to court to get an order relieving that person from the obligation of providing documents or testimony. This is not an easy task and the objecting party has the burden of proving to the court the request is too burdensome or irrelevant.
Depositions: The person being deposed answers questions from the opposing attorney. The oral answers are written down and transcribed by a court reporter and are given under oath. They may be used as evidence in all proceedings.
If you believe the discovery requests of your spouse are unnecessary, irrelevant or cumbersome, you may file a motion with the court asking it to relieve you of your legal obligation to comply with the discovery request.
When discovery is complete, the attorneys for each side will use the information to present to the court with their proposals of how assets and liabilities should be divided, how child custody and visitation issues should be resolved and whether or not one party will be ordered to pay spousal support or alimony to the other.
A skilled and aggressive family attorney like Jeff Anderson will guide you through the discovery process.