What Exactly is the Discovery Process in a Divorce

You may know every detail of your life with your spouse, but the lawyers and judges do not.  You may not even know about all the key financial issues concerning your spouse.  The discovery process in a divorce is there to collect information and fill in all the gaps in a form that can be used as evidence in a court of law. Discovery Process in a Divorce

The divorce discovery process is one of the most important and least-understood aspects of divorce cases.  It occurs during the pre-trial phase of a divorce.  It’s basically the name and formal process in which each side obtains information and evidence from the other side.  

The discovery process is used in order to gain a better understanding of your case and for the Alabaster divorce attorney to determine the best position on how to best approach your case.  The ultimate goal of the discovery process is to make sure each side has the same information regarding the divorce case in order to ensure a fair negotiation and so each side can understand the evidence that will be presented if the case goes to trial.  Discovery can go smoothly or be contentious.  It’s not uncommon for disputes regarding discovery to become very costly and to cause delays in the divorce proceeding. 

Discovery is very simple in its meaning.  It’s simply the information gathering phase of any lawsuit.  It deals with document exchanging, disclosing of information and the answering of questions between the two parties.  It’s not just about learning the truth.  It’s about gathering the necessary evidence that you will use in order to inform negotiations in mediation or if your case eventually has to go to court.  In many divorce cases, a spouse may know very little about the couple’s assets, debts, finances, or even the other spouse’s income and employment.  

There are many reasons that this could be the case, but often it is the result of one spouse having the control or responsibility of handling all the financial aspects of the couples’ lives.  Even in situations where both parties are totally aware and knowledgeable about all income and assets, confirming that full disclosure under oath is critical for divorce purposes.  The exchange of all financial information of both parties in a divorce case is critical to reach a fair resolution of the case whether by trial or settlement.  

It can be very time consuming to prepare and gather all necessary information and documents needed for the discovery process.  Some of the basic information you will need to gather includes:

  • Employment information including income, pay rate, regular and overtime hours
  • Benefits paid along with your employment
  • Other forms of income such as SSI, Annuities, Trust payments, VA benefits, rental income, etc.
  • Real property information including any mortgage or lines of credit
  • Financial accounts
  • Pensions
  • Life insurance
  • Vehicles including auto loans
  • Valuable personal property
  • Business ownership interests
  • Bankruptcy history
  • Ongoing child support or alimony from past cases
  • Debts with current balances
  • Business ownership interests

The different forms of discovery include Interrogatories, Subpoenas, Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admission and Depositions.  Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered under oath.  The questions are usually very general about the spouse’s background, such as work history, income, education, assets, etc.  You will answer Interrogatories in consultation with your Anniston divorce lawyer.  Requests for Production of Documents are formal requests to provide specific documents that contain important or relevant information related to your divorce.  

Requests for Admission are a series of short, pointed questions stating facts that you will be asked to confirm or deny.  Subpoenas are used to request information from people either to produce documents or to appear in person to testify.  Subpoenas are used for people or entities that are not parties to the lawsuit. Usually once the lawyers have exchanged documents, they will schedule depositions.  

An experienced professional divorce attorney can help you through the discovery process.  In addition to being totally honest with the other side, it is critical that you be forthcoming and honest with your own attorney.  Your Birmingham divorce attorney cannot adequately protect and represent your interests without knowing all the facts. The Discovery process will move much quicker and smoothly if both parties are totally truthful and forthcoming with all requests for information regarding the divorce, unless it is an easy uncontested divorce in Alabama

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