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What is Discovery?

by | Jun 21, 2021 | Firm News

By: Alexandra Willen, Associate Attorney

During your family law case, you may hear your attorney mention discovery, and you may be wondering what that is or what all it entails.

Discovery is a way to obtain information from the opposing party, and there are many forms of discovery. The most common forms of discovery in family law are Requests for Production and Inspection, Interrogatories, Requests for Admissions, Depositions, and Required Disclosures.

Requests for Production and Inspection: This is a way to obtain documents and evidence from the opposing party that they may use in trial. For example, if you have a suit related to a child, you would request that they produce documents evidencing their income such as paystubs and tax returns so that you can determine child support. In a divorce, you may want to request bank statements or mortgage statements so that you know what you may be entitled to in your divorce.

Interrogatories: Interrogatories are written questions sent to an opposing party, who then must answer the questions under oath. Interrogatories are a good way to have questions answered prior to trial. For example, you could send a question that states “State the dates in which you did not exercise possession within the past year.” This would be useful to show that a parent was not taking possession of the child during their time.

Requests for Admissions: Requests for admissions are a way to request that an opposing party admit or deny certain statements. For example, you could present the statement “Admit or Deny that you have been having an affair with Jane Doe.” This would allow you definitive evidence that infidelity has occurred.

Depositions: Depositions are another tool to gather information in which an attorney will be able to question an opposing party or other witness outside of the courtroom. This allows you to know what that person will say at a trial. Knowing ahead of time what a person will say at trial, allows you to better prepare your case so that you have the best chance of success in the court room.

Initial Disclosures: If you filed a suit after January 1, 2021 in Texas, disclosures are required. These are specific things that must be disclosed within a certain timeframe after a case is filed. For example, you must disclose the witnesses you may call at trial, share your tax returns, and other information relevant to your suit. By requiring these disclosures, requests for them no longer need to be sent, and it ensures that relevant information is disclosure prior to trial.

In most cases, discovery requests must be responded to within 30 days. You are not required to send discovery requests to an opposing party. However, it is a great tool to gather information. In law suits, knowledge is power, and the more information you can obtain the easier it may be to settle your case, or be successful at trial.