What is the Discovery Process During a Family Law Case?

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Family Law Attorneys Discuss the Discovery Process

What is discovery? | Family Law Attorneys

A common hurdle in getting a fair settlement in a Texas divorce is determining the value of the couple’s assets and liabilities and the amount of their current income. As many people know, each spouse owns one-half of the entire community estate. The community estate consists of all assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. To divide this fairly in a divorce, it is vitally important for the parties and the court to know all the assets and liabilities and their approximate values.

How is Child Support Affected During the Discovery Process?

Additionally, in Texas, child support payments are affected by parents’ income—either the noncustodial parent’s income or an offset of both parents’ income. To calculate child support properly, current and accurate income information for both parents must be provided.
The process of obtaining this information is called discovery. Each spouse can seek information from the other in order to get an accounting of assets and liabilities. Each spouse also can ask questions or request documents regarding income and other issues involving the children and spouses. There are some limits to what can be requested in discovery. In divorce cases, each party is allowed to seek only information related to the assets, liabilities, income, children and character of the other spouse.

Different Forms of Discovery

The following forms of discovery are commonly used in a Texas divorce. Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, written discovery requests may be sent to the opposing party up to 60 days before trial, and responses must be made within 30 days.

    Requests for Disclosure – This common discovery mechanism seeks to obtain information like legal theories and the identity of any witnesses to be called at trial, should there be one. Anyone to be called as a witness, and all issues to be addressed, must be disclosed in response to these requests. Otherwise, the court will exclude them from being presented at trial.

    Requests for Production of Documents – This type of discovery requests all documents or other tangible things relevant to the issues in your divorce, such as bank account statements and children’s school records. Any documents not produced in response to this request at least 30 days before trial may not be used as exhibits or evidence at trial.

    Interrogatories – This type of discovery request asks a party to respond to questions in writing. The written answers are sworn before a notary and therefore given under oath.

    Inventory & Appraisement – This type of discovery asks a party to make a list of their assets and liabilities along with approximate values. As with interrogatories, the written list is signed in the presence of a notary so that it may be treated as sworn testimony given under oath.

    If discovery requests are properly submitted, a spouse can be punished for failing to respond or for not providing complete information. The court may prevent a spouse from presenting evidence or testimony at trial if that spouse failed to respond to a discovery request by the other spouse. For this reason, it is extremely important to respond to discovery. You do not want to be limited at trial because you failed to provide information requested by your spouse. If a spouse fails to provide the requested information, the court can make its own conclusions regarding the answers to those requests based on other testimony and evidence presented at trial.

    Contact our Family Law Attorneys to Help You with the Discovery Process

    If you have received discovery requests or want to serve discovery requests in your divorce, please contact our family law attorneys to help you. If you fail to follow the Rules of Procedure in the discovery process, you may be prevented from presenting information at trial, or you may be fined by the court. Let us help you get the information you need from the other side and preserve your ability to present your case to the court.