Discovery is the formal process by which parties exchange information.
When everything goes well, you might not even have to deal with formal discovery requests in a family law case. However, if people have already decided that they need to resolve the matter by going to court, you should be prepared to deal with discovery issues.
If you represent yourself in a divorce proceeding, the judge will hold you to the same standard as if you were an attorney.
That is why it is so important to have your own divorce lawyer who is on your side from the beginning of the process to the end, making sure your interests are represented. You can actually lose important issues in a family law case simply by missing a deadline.
The Kind of Information You Will Share During a Divorce
As you start going through the divorce process, you might even start learning things about yourself. The first step you will take is to gather all your financial documents, but that is just the beginning.
Generally, until the case is over, you and your ex-spouse will continue to exchange information, but there are specific deadlines for disclosure that you should discuss with your divorce attorney.
Always keep in mind that you are being held to a high standard when producing discovery and answering questions for your case. You will agree that the answers are true and accurate to the best of your knowledge, under penalty of perjury. If the court finds out you are misrepresenting your assets or anything else, you could be punished under the law.
Different Kinds of Discovery
There are several kinds of written discovery that you and your spouse can use to get all the information you need. You will likely be required to answer the questions and produce all the documents asked for as long as it is reasonable, and a lot is considered reasonable during a divorce.
You will feel as though your entire life is being laid bare. That is normal, and it can increase your other negative feelings. Your attorney can help you to understand the purpose of the different kinds of information you need to share and manage the paperwork, so you don’t miss any deadlines.
The discovery process can also seem to drag on, and the rules of family law procedure give long timelines for you to cooperate.
There isn’t a point in putting off discovery requests if the court will end up ordering you to comply anyway. If you decide not to cooperate, the opposing party will likely file a motion to compel.
Unreasonably refusing to cooperate can open you up to contempt, having to pay the other sides’ attorney fees, and other discovery-related sanctions. Any refusal to cooperate with a discovery request should be thoroughly discussed with your attorney.
Arizona actually has a standard set of sample interrogatories that can be used in family law courts. These are basically fill-in-the-blank questions that will hopefully give a clear picture of your personal life, accompanied by documentation like financial statements and copies of policies. Here are some of the questions:
Full Name and Contact Information
In this section, you will also list your social security number and date of birth, any other names you have used in the past, and all the personal information for any other person currently living with you.
Education and Training
You will simply state your education and degrees.
Here you will give your employment history for the past three years, with full information about each employer and amount of income. You will also include information about any bonuses or part-time work you do, and then attach your last six pay stubs and work contract, if you have one.
Deferred Compensation and Retirement Benefits
You will need to list every retirement plan and pension plan you have ever participated in with documentation on your current retirement accounts, including the most recent value.
Attach a copy of your current insurance card and list costs and co-pays. You should also explain how you have access to health insurance.
If you have received income from any other source not yet explained, this the place to give details. This can be from any source, including investments or money market mutual funds.
Provide documentation on any property for which you have an ownership interest. You will need to know the fair market value of any property you share with your ex-spouse.
List any current life insurance plans you currently own, including the name of the insurance company, any possible cash or surrender value, names of beneficiaries, the cost, and whether the insurance is related to your employment.
Here they are asking for items like company cars, stock, or profit-sharing you expect to receive.
Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time
The first subsection to this question asks whether you think you and your spouse can come to an agreement with going through the courts or using mediators.
The other questions ask about parenting time, the children’s special needs, and how you expect to make decisions about important matters like education and religion. There is a section that gives you the chance to voice any concerns you have over your ex-spouse’s parenting skills.
Department of Child Safety
Have you or any other member of your household ever been investigated by the Department of Child Safety? When? What was the outcome?
Do you have any personal needs or limitations that would affect your ability to care for the children?
Do you have any savings accounts, checking accounts, or safe deposit boxes? You will need to provide bank statements and any other account information you have.
At the end of the interrogatories, you will have to fill out affidavits and list all of your personal property and other assets, including real estate.
Production of Documents
Under Arizona law, opposing counsel can file a request for production of documents to get more information they believe they need.
The discovery requests should usually be limited to no more than ten items, although the court may allow more with good reason, and you will likely have 40 days to file a written response if you want to contest all or some of the items. The kinds of documents the opposing party may request might include more financial information such as more tax returns or your lease.
The court may allow more or less time for the response. The respondent, when producing the documents, should produce them in their normal form, but should label the documents and give a list of what is being offered.
Finding the Right Divorce Attorney
You could win or lose a case or issue depending on discovery. That is just one of the many reasons you should have a family law attorney with experience in all the related issues, so you don’t take those kinds of chances.
Discovery can also be embarrassing, and you might be shocked when you see all your personal information laid out in one place. You should have an attorney you can trust.
We at Burggraff Tash Levy PLC understand how personal divorce cases are. You will have to share almost every detail of your life before the case is over. Because of the attorney-client relationship, we can hear the details in confidence and help you prepare your responses.
If you live in the area of Scottsdale or Phoenix, Arizona, please feel free to call today for any advice on any family law matters.