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The role of discovery in your contested divorce

The role of discovery in your contested divorce

Nobody really wants to go through a hotly-contested divorce, but sometimes it’s inevitable. If your spouse is refusing to play fair and won’t work with you, sometimes the only choice you have is to move toward litigation. This is where the methods used in legal discovery become important.

Discovery is the process by which two parties engaged in a legal battle exchange information with each other. It’s particularly important in divorce cases where hidden financial issues may be a factor in support or the division of assets.

When it comes time to start the discovery process in your divorce, this is what you can expect:

1. Document requests

You and your spouse will both be asked to produce any documents that may be important to the decisions that have to be made in the divorce. This may include things like tax returns, bank statements, pension statements, credit card bills, child care bills, receipts and more.

You cannot refuse to produce any of these documents — and neither can your spouse.

2. Interrogatories

These are written questions that ask for information. Usually, they’re designed to clarify your position about something, like the amount of support that you believe you should have to pay or should receive.

For example, if you own your own business and are claiming that a lull in business is making it impossible for you to pay the requested spousal support, one question might be something like, “Why has your business income fallen in the last year?”

3. Depositions

Depositions are interviews conducted by the opposing party’s attorney. You have to swear an oath and the deposition is recorded, much in the same way a trial would be — although there is no judge present.

Depositions generally accomplish two things: They produce more detailed information on a subject and tell the opposing attorney how well someone does under pressure and on the witness stand.

Unlike what you see on television, there’s almost nothing that ever comes as a surprise in a trial — it all usually comes out in discovery. That’s why it’s particularly important to discuss all the fact about your divorce case with your attorney long before the discovery process starts.

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