A divorce begins with a discovery process where information about the opposing party is collected through a series of questions and legal documents.
The Process of Discovery
When a married couple decides to divorce, the process usually begins by hiring a divorce lawyer to prepare the proper legal documents required by the court. Each spouse is permitted to hire his or her own lawyer to oversee a discovery process. The process starts with a series of questions and documents related to the couple’s marital assets and debts, personal finances, and issues involving children.
Discovery allows one spouse to reveal information about the other spouse, or third parties, through a series of questions guided by Indiana court rules. Although discovery may not be necessary in all divorce cases, it helps to provide a complete picture, especially if one spouse feels like the other spouse is not being forthcoming about certain information. According to state discovery rules, an Indiana divorce lawyer has the ability to subpoena documents when information is withheld.
A formal discovery process may include the following steps, depending on the information needed:
- Written Interrogatories – A series of written questions sent to the other spouse to determine accurate information on certain matters such as yearly income, division of assets, support, and child custody. Questions must be answered under oath, usually handled through certified mail or in the presence of divorce lawyers.
- Production of Documents – Certain requested documents or electronically stored information needed for evidence. This may include the other spouse’s tax returns, W2s or pay stubs, bank statements, credit card and loan statements, and retirement accounts.
- Requests for Admission – Certain facts that must be either admitted or denied by the other spouse.
- Subpoena of Documents – Documents may be subpoenaed, if parties fail to respond or one spouse reasonably suspects omitted or untruthful information.
- Deposition – Questions must be asked and answered in the presence of a court reporter. Depositions are not as common as written interrogatories unless the divorce is contentious and a final hearing is likely.
Since every divorce case is different, the time required to complete the discovery process may vary from a few weeks to a few months, or even longer in complex cases. It takes time to draft the discovery, send requests, wait for answers, and analyze responses. Discovery is often the longest part of a divorce case because parties use it to prepare for a trial or settlement negotiations.