Pennsylvania Divorce Interrogatories
Many divorces have a discovery phase which is very helpful for uncovering information about your spouse. In our experience, some spouses hide investment accounts or even income. Others will conveniently “forget” about trust funds or savings accounts held in a different state. You can’t request a share of accounts that you don’t know exist, so discovery serves a critical purpose in many divorces.
Interrogatories are a popular and helpful method of requesting information from your spouse, but no one should try to draft their own or answer them without legal advice. Our Media divorce lawyer has ample experience with interrogatories and knows how to use them to her client’s benefit.
What Are Interrogatories?
Put simply, interrogatories are written questions which your spouse or another party must answer under oath. Because they are under oath, there is an obvious incentive to tell the truth. Many people rely on their lawyer to read and then answer the interrogatories because any misleading statement could result in sanctions.
Rule 4005 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure does not set a maximum number of interrogatories you can serve. However, the rule does allow the judge to limit the number to prevent annoyance, expense, burden, or embarrassment.
What happens if you have a lot of questions to ask? Fortunately, you can use other discovery techniques, such as requests for the production of documents, or even a sworn deposition, where your spouse will answer questions in person under oath.
What Information Can You Request?
Parties have quite a bit of latitude. For example, under Rule 4003.1, you can request any information relevant to the issues being disputed, so long as the information isn’t privileged. For example, you could request information about which banks your spouse has financial accounts, but you can’t ask his attorney to disclose the information told to him.
Do You Have to Answer Them?
Yes. Just as you propound interrogatories on your spouse, he or she can serve them on you. You must answer them completely and honestly. At our firm, we will work with you to gather the correct information and then prepare the answers in the proper format.
Many interrogatories are overly broad or very vague. Some would require a massive amount of work to answer completely. In these types of situations, we can raise objections in our answers or even go into court to dispute unfair or time-consuming questions.
What if Your Spouse Lies?
It sometimes happens. A spouse who is committed to hiding financial information, for example, might provide misleading or even outright false answers to interrogatories. If we can prove that your spouse is lying, we can ask the judge for sanctions. Of course, we need proof. Suspicion is rarely enough.
A judge can sanction a party by deciding the factual issue against them or possibly even ruling against the dishonest party—though this is a harsh remedy. At a minimum, you can harm a person’s credibility by showing that they mislead when answering under oath.
We Can Tackle Your Discovery Disputes
Barbara Flum Stein & Associates has ample experience with contested divorces, and our firm can walk you through the Media divorce process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn more about your rights.