Ending a marriage is usually a highly emotional process. Unfortunately, it also frequently requires an equally stressful legal process. Divorce is often made even more difficult by the simple fact that the parties are unfamiliar with the legal system and, therefore, do not know what to expect during the process. The “discovery” process, in particular, can be a minefield for those who have never been through it. For those who are contemplating divorce, Dallas divorce attorney Rita M. Boyd explains the discovery process.
Either spouse may initiate the legal process of divorce by filing a Petition for Divorce with the appropriate court. The spouse who files the Petition is referred to as the “Petitioner.” That Petition must be served on the other spouse (the “Respondent”) along with a summons. The Respondent must file a written Answer with the Court within 20 days or the Petitioner can request a default judgment. If the Respondent does file an Answer that denies (or contests) any of the allegations contained within the Petition, the matter moves to the next stage of the divorce process. That stage is referred to as “discovery.”
The Discovery Process
Discovery is essentially an evidence gathering process that occurs when any issue is litigated. There are rules that apply to the discovery process in both civil and criminal cases. In a divorce, the discovery process can be minimal or can take months – even years, primarily depending on how contentious the divorce is. There are four tools in the discovery “tool kit” including:
- Requests for Answers to Interrogatories. Arguably, the most informal of the discovery tools, a Request for Answers to Interrogatories lets you ask the opposing party a list of often open-ended questions. You may cover anything relevant to the divorce. For example, you might ask for a list of all employers for the preceding five years or ask if any asset transfers were made during a year prior to the filing for divorce. You can also ask broad questions such as “How would you describe your relationship with your children?” or “Why do you believe you are entitled to spousal support?”
- Requests for Production of Documents and Things. When you are looking for specific evidence in a divorce you will likely utilize a Request for Production of Documents and Things which allows you to request tangible evidence including, but not limited to, things such as tax returns, electronic records, paycheck records, business records, and deeds and titles.
- Requests for Admissions. This discovery tool is exactly what it sounds like – a tool that lets you ask the opposing party to admit or deny things by asking carefully worded questions. For example, you might ask “Do you admit or deny that you transferred 10 acres of land into your sister’s name within the last year?” or “Do you admit or deny that you have never been to the minor child’s school for any reason?”
- Depositions. Depositions are typically the costliest discovery tool – both in terms of money and time. On the other hand, when a divorce is highly adversarial, a deposition can be crucial to preparing for trial because it lets you know what testimony a witness (including the opposing party) plans to give at trial. Although a deposition occurs outside the courtroom, the witness must appear at the designated place and time to be questioned, under oath, by the opposing party’s attorney. The answers are recorded by a court reporter and may be used at trial under certain circumstances. Not only does a deposition allow you a preview of the trial, but it can lock a witness into answers that can be beneficial to your case.
Contact a Dallas Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about a Texas divorce, contact experienced Dallas divorce lawyer Rita M. Boyd, P.C. to discuss your legal rights and options by calling 972-380-8000 to schedule your appointment today.