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What you need to know about Divorce

E. Discovery

A necessary annoyance of divorce proceedings is the "discovery stage". Discovery refers to both parties' right and responsibility to gather and disclose information - primarily financial - to the other side. The most common tools in this process are:

(i) Admissions - where you or your spouse are required to admit or deny specific written statements within a specified time; if you do not respond it may be deemed admitted and the court accepts it as fact.

(ii) Interrogatories - where you or your spouse submit a list of detailed written questions that must be answered in an allotted time; if you do not respond you may be fined or your case dismissed.

(iii) Production of Documents - a written request to the opposing party for a specific list of documents to be produced at a specific time and date; again you may be sanctioned by the court for non-compliance.

If you encounter difficulty securing past joint tax returns, you may get them directly from the Internal Revenue Service by completing I.R.S. Form 4506.

(iv) Deposition - the most common form of discovery, a deposition generally takes place in a lawyer's office, where you, your spouse or other witnesses give oral testimony under oath. Listen to the question and answer only the question. Never volunteer information. Never state facts that you do not know. Depositions are used not only to gather information but also to assess the deponent's credibility and to document inconsistencies which may later occur if the deponent is called as a witness at trial. Most of your attorney's objections available at a trial do not apply here. Questions may be broad, but must focus on relevant case information.

If subpoenaed for a deposition, we strongly suggest that, prior to your testimony, you have your attorney prepare you for questions which may be asked by the opposing party at the deposition.

(v) Request for Physical or Mental Examinations - are typically requested in child custody cases where a party's physical, emotion or mental condition is in issue as to their "fitness" for custody.

(vi) Requests for Entry onto Land - It may be necessary for your attorney to formally request access to property to appraise a house or business or value their contents. The request will specify when and why access is necessary.

(vii) Requests for Vocational Evaluation - This permits a trained evaluator to assess earning potential by interviewing and testing the person to find out what career choices might be appropriate and what training is necessary to achieve career goals. A court considering spousal support will want this information. The court generally gives considerable weight to such testimony.