The Discovery Phase of Divorce
One of the most labor-intensive aspects of divorce is the discovery process. While discovery may, at times, feel overwhelming or invasive, this process is about gathering all the necessary information from each spouse to make balanced decisions about vital aspects of divorce, such as alimony payments, child support, and the division of marital assets and liabilities.
An experienced North Carolina divorce attorney is crucial during this process. If you are considering a divorce, talk to a seasoned attorney with Marshall & Taylor PLLC. We can answer your questions about the discovery phase and help you plan for what’s to come. Contact us today by calling 919-833-1040 for a case evaluation and discussion about how we can help you.
What is the Discovery Phase?
Discovery is the legal term for the process that attorneys use to obtain and exchange information between the parties involved in a lawsuit or a divorce. This process is meant to put both parties on the same page when it comes to important information. That way, decisions can be made about how to proceed. In North Carolina divorce proceedings, it is relatively common for attorneys to request financial records and documentation related to bank accounts, pensions, 401(k)s, real estate, and other investments. However, during the discovery phase, any number of questions may be asked about a wide range of topics pertaining to the course of the marriage itself.
The discovery process isn’t just about obtaining records and documents. Discovery can encompass both oral examinations and written questions to either or both parties. Written interrogatories, turning over documentation, requests for permission to enter onto land or properties for inspection, medical examinations, and requests for admission may also be a part of this phase of divorce.
The reason for discovery is to lay all the cards out on the table. Once a complete picture has come into focus, and all the information is available to both sides, the spouses and their attorneys will be able to negotiate an agreement on the proper division of assets and liabilities. If an agreement cannot be made, this information is extremely important to a judge, who will examine all provided documentation and make a determination as to what is best, under the law, for both parties.
The Discovery Process
The discovery process includes several different elements. Interrogatories are one of the most important aspects of the process. Interrogatories are questions that are to be answered by the party they are formally served upon. However, there can’t be more than 50 questions, which is the current state limit. The party answering the interrogatories must do so in writing and under oath.
Another important aspect of the discovery phase is the “ request for production.” This is simply a legal request for a party to hand over documents that can be considered relevant to the divorce, such as bank or financial statements. Typically, once a party is served with a request for production, they will need to enter their written response within 30 days. A party may be able to submit physical documents or electronically stored information in response to this type of request.
Sometimes, in certain divorce proceedings, a party will wish to file a “request for admission,” which is a written request that relates to statements or opinions of fact. This simply means that one party wants to request that the other party make factual admissions about certain aspects of the pending divorce. All admissions or denials that are submitted must be honest and factual. “I don’t know,” or any form of lack of knowledge about a subject is not a sufficient response unless the party can prove that they made a reasonable effort to obtain the information or answer.
Depositions are another tool used for obtaining information and testimony in divorce cases. A deposition is similar to an interview or court examination and can be conducted at any point in the discovery process. Depositions are commonly conducted orally but may be given in written form in some situations. A deposition may be conducted to solicit the testimony of either or both spouses and any witnesses, depending on the nature of the case. All information presented during a deposition, again, must be factual and truthful.
Failing to Respond to Discovery
Discovery is one of the most important aspects of a divorce case. What is revealed during the discovery process can have a significant impact on the division of assets, child support, alimony, and child custody. Failing to respond to a discovery request can carry serious implications. If a party fails to respond or if they respond with evasive or incomplete answers, the court may opt to impose sanctions. Sanctions are a form of penalty for failing to obey the law, rules, or regulations. Not only can sanctions, or punishment, be imposed on the party for failing to respond, but disregarding discovery can seriously jeopardize a pending divorce and that party’s standing with the judge.
Not responding during the discovery process or being less than truthful when answering questions or filing paperwork is dangerous. It can carry serious legal consequences as well as jeopardize a party’s legal standing in court. If you believe that your spouse is not being forthcoming during the discovery process, you need to bring your concerns to the attention of your attorney. The division of assets and the allocation of alimony and child support must be made by using accurate information. Failing to disclose information, altering information, or simply not providing the information can result in you not receiving your fair and equitable due during a divorce.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney for More Information
The discovery process can seem daunting and a little overwhelming. There may be a large volume of paperwork and exchange of information involved throughout the process. An experienced and thoughtful divorce attorney can make the process feel much smoother and less stressful as they help you navigate through discovery.
At Marshall & Taylor PLLC, we are committed to helping you understand the process of divorce and help you move through it with compassion and support. We are also committed to protecting your rights and the rights of your family as we help you seek a fair and reasonable resolution to the end of your marriage. For more information about how we can help you through the process of divorce, contact our office at 919-833-1040.