Divorce Discovery: Exchange of Documents and Information

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Soon after divorcing spouses file the initial court papers to get the divorce process started (the divorce/dissolution petition and the answer to the petition), they'll exchange information related to their respective economic, financial, and personal situations -- including the extent of their property ownership, debt, and income. The exchange of this information is known as the discovery process.

By reviewing the information exchanged during divorce discovery close to the start of the divorce process, a divorcing couple, their attorneys, and the court can begin to decide how to fairly divide up property and how to deal with divorce-related issues such as child support and spousal support (alimony). Discovery can take place through an informal exchange of information and documents by the parties and their attorneys (common in divorce cases), or the process can follow a number of more rigid procedures.

Requests for Production of Document

In responding to requests for document production, each spouse makes documents related to the divorce, marriage, their separate property, incomes, etc. available to the other spouse. Any party has a right to see most documents that even arguably relate to the divorce and other issues that need to be resolved. These documents are used to determine things like the division of property, child support, and spousal support (alimony).

Interrogatories and Requests for Admission

Interrogatories are questions requiring a spouse's version of the facts and support for his or her demands. These questions can be pre-printed "form" interrogatories, or specific questions asked just for your case called "special" interrogatories. Questions can range from the broad ("Describe your current relationship with your children") to the specific ("Is it your position that respondent's taxable income for 2018 was $60,000?"). If a question isn't fair or is difficult to understand, it's possible to object to the question.

Requests for admission are not often used in divorce discovery, but they can be very powerful tools. Requests for admission ask a party to admit or deny certain facts pertaining to the divorce and related issues. Failure to answer requests for admission or providing a false answer can result in penalties.

Depositions

Depositions are sworn statements that are made in response to an attorney's question and transcribed by a court reporter. Depositions can range in length from an hour to a week or even longer. Although all attorneys have their own strategies for depositions, there are basically two reasons to use them: to see what the other side has, and to do a practice trial. A practice trial can give an attorney an idea of how a witness will appear and conduct themselves before a judge or jury.

There are two general things to remember when it comes to being deposed. First, never guess. The purpose of a deposition is to give facts, not to speculate as to what might have happened or what the right answer might be. Second, it's important to resist the impulse to explain things so that the listener understands. It's the opposing side's job to get the answers, so offering additional information without being asked is unnecessary.

Things to Remember About Divorce Discovery

There are certain things to remember about the divorce discovery process:

  • Keep in mind that it's very likely that anything and everything will come out at some point in the discovery process. In divorce cases, this is especially true if the case becomes contentious and emotions run high.
  • It's imperative to be honest with your divorce attorney about the facts and documents that may come out. They can't do the best job if you don't disclose everything.
  • Be honest during the discovery process because nothing will make your position in a divorce case worse than lying and getting caught (i.e. hiding assets, etc.).

Learn More About Divorce Discovery from an Attorney

Divorce is rough for all parties, but an experienced divorce attorney can guide you through the process to ensure your financial security. A good attorney can smoothly handle the initial exchange of documents and beginning discovery phase of the divorce and help spot problems before they emerge. Find a local, experienced divorce attorney near you.

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