What Is the Purpose of Discovery in a Divorce Case?
The legal system is not easy to penetrate for those not trained in its rules, and this lack of knowledge can create frustration and anxiety when encountering the legal process in a divorce. Filing the petition and providing a copy and notice to the other spouse is just the first step to officially ending the marriage. Many divorce cases, especially those that are contested, are mainly taken up by the discovery process, which is the period during which each side exchanges information with the other on issues such as finances, income, and childcare. This part of the divorce process takes time to complete because of the large amount of information each spouse is often asked to collect, as well as the effort that goes into responding to the various forms of discovery attorneys use to gather the information they need. Because this aspect of divorce is so involved and requires direct involvement of each spouse, it is important to understand what to expect and what is typically required.
The Purpose of Discovery
In any legal case where issues are in dispute, each side must present arguments in favor of the outcome they wish to achieve. These arguments must be supported by evidence, which a judge or jury weighs to determine which side should prevail. As noted above, discovery is an information gathering process, and the information collected forms the basis of the evidence a spouse will use to support his/her demands. The stronger the evidence, the more likely a judge will side with a particular party, and to create the strongest possible case, any relevant documents, testimony, or other sources of data is collected to see if everything claimed by the other side is accurate, and to bolster one’s own arguments in his/her favor.
Types of Discovery Requests
Most discovery requests come in the form of interrogatories (written questions), depositions, and requests for the production of certain documents. Interrogatories are the most common form of discovery used in divorce, and consist of written questions posed to the other spouse on matters such as assets and debt, lifestyle, work background, and education. Even in cases that are not heavily disputed, this option will be informally used to verify information to help the case proceed more efficiently. In addition, most interrogatories are accompanied by requests for documents, which for divorce generally includes asking for bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, etc. to assess how to approach the issues of child support, alimony, and property division. Another frequently used discovery method is the deposition. A deposition is a question and answer session taken under oath in an informal setting. A court reporter is used to record the testimony and produce a written transcript for later use at trial. This option could be useful if a person is unavailable for trial or to help compel a settlement. However, it can be expensive, so is only worthwhile if it will truly benefit the conclusion of the case.
Finally, in situations where a spouse refuses to provide requested information and/or cannot get access to it, a subpoena may be used to force the surrender of certain records. These are typically used to collect information from employers and financial institutions but may also be used to require a person to appear at trial. An attorney can determine when this option is worth pursuing.
Speak to a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney
Divorce cases have a lot of moving parts that impact what the ultimate outcome will be in a particular case. If you have questions about your divorce case, talk to the attorneys at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates about what you can expect. With decades of experience representing clients in divorce and family law matters, this Delaware County law firm can provide the help you need to move forward with your life. Contact our divorce attorneys today at (610) 565-6100 for a consultation.