What is Discovery in Family Law Cases?

Family law cases can involve many elements, from determining child custody to dividing real property. To thoroughly understand a case, both sides must go through a phase called “discovery.” The discovery phase grants both parties the opportunity to exchange information between themselves. During discovery, the law obligates both sides to reveal facts about the case. Without this part of proceedings, the parties would go through the trial in the dark about what the other side will do or say. Discovery may add to the expense of a family law case, but it can make all the difference.

Types of Discovery in Family Law Cases

Discovery can be formal or informal. Both can be complex and require help from experienced family law attorneys. Lawyers and their staff must come up with questions, analyze the responses, and argue in court if the other side did not respond to questions they should have. Discovery sometimes generates thousands of documents depending on the complexity of the case. Despite being complicated and adding to the cost of a trial, discovery is a worthwhile part of every family law case.

Informal discovery involves gathering information on your own, without help from an attorney. Informal discovery is only successful if the other side is cooperative with the investigation. You can conduct informal discovery before the case even begins. This process may include conducting interviews, gathering documents, considering the other side’s assets, and asking important questions. If the other side is using an attorney, it is wise for you to do so as well, to maintain an even playing field.

A formal discovery is a legal process that happens after a party files a case. Formal discoveries can involve interrogatories, or written questions the other party must answer in writing and under oath. They also include depositions, requests for documents, requests for admissions, and subpoenas. If the other side objects to giving the requested information, one can file a motion in court asking a judge to decide on the issue. There are laws regarding formal discovery, such as limits to the number of questions you can ask. Trust an attorney for this complicated process.

Benefits of the Discovery Phase

A couple might shy away from the discovery phase upon learning that it will add to the cost and time frame of a family law case. However, discovery is the only way both parties can enter the courtroom without being completely in the dark about what the other side has up its sleeve. This is immensely important, as it gives both sides an even and fair chance in court. In matters concerning children and high-value community property, discovery is invaluable. With an attorney, discovery can be even more successful.

If you have reason to believe your spouse is hiding assets in off-shore bank accounts or through other means, discovery is your opportunity to investigate this matter. Private investigators can take measures to find hidden assets and bring them to light during court proceedings. For this type of discovery, a party needs a lawyer. When the parties cannot communicate or work together, formal discovery is the only way forward.

Discovery can give information regarding financial accounts, living situations, documentation of a spouse’s business, tax documents, debts, and how the other party might conduct itself in court. It gives you an in-depth understanding of where the other party stands, whether they want to work with you or not. You earn legal rights to information during discovery, regardless of your level of communication with your soon-to-be-ex spouse. You might discover hidden assets, debts, real property, or other facts that may impact property division and child custody arrangements.