The 411 on Discovery
January 10, 2020
BY: Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O'Cathain & O'Cathain
What is the Discovery Process?
Discovery is the process wherein the parties in a divorce matter must answer questions, and provide documentation, regarding the marital economic lifestyle, assets, and custody and parenting time, if applicable. During the discovery process, clients will be asked to gather information such as bank records, tax returns, credit card statements, etc.
Each party’s attorney will send out a discovery request to be answered by the other party. Those requests can consist of a Notice to Produce/Demand for Documents, which is a written notice requiring the other party to produce documents relevant to the divorce.
Counsel can also send various questions, called interrogatories, which are written questions directed to and to be answered by the other party. Since each case is different, questions are tailored to fit the specific facts and circumstances relative to the matter. Interrogatories are normally focused on and divided into three categories: financial, custody, and marital lifestyle.
Custody Interrogatories are questions that relate to the parties’ children. The questions typically focus on proposed custody and parenting time arrangements and why that party believes any given arrangement would be preferential and in the best interests of their children. The questions heavily concentrate on how the parties believe the children should be raised with respect to their education, their religions, and general well-being.
Financial Interrogatories are questions about the finances of both parties for a certain number of years. These questions seek to provide information about each party’s employment, earnings, and assets, inclusive of real estate holdings, checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, etc. If either party is self-employed the questions may center around their business ownership.
Lifestyle Interrogatories are questions about the way the parties lived during the marriage. These questions may seem redundant, as employment and sources of income will be questioned; however, they also focus on the standard of living the parties established during their marriage.
The questions range from the type of home the parties lived in, the cars they drove, the frequency and types of vacations they took, to any private schools or camps their children attended, and any hobbies they enjoyed. These types of questions inform counsel of the marital standard of living and how each party might expect to live going forward.
Once the attorney’s office receives these documents, they are reviewed and sent to the client to begin working on. As a client, you can tackle the request on your own, or you can come to the office and meet with a paralegal to assist you with answering the questions.
Many clients chose to answer as many questions as they can, flagging the ones which they have questions about, before making an appointment to meet with the paralegal on their case. Once the answers to Interrogatories are drafted, and documents to be produced assembled, the attorney in charge of your case will review everything and discuss any potential problems with you.
The discovery process may seem like a daunting task, but the process can be easily tackled when you are working with an experienced paralegal. Below are a few pointers to help you through this process.
Here are some tips when tackling discovery:
Review each request in its entirety and make sure you understand and can answer the question completely. You may come across questions that have numerous sub-parts; make sure you answer each individually. If you will be relying on information or documents make sure you look over what is in your possession to ensure that your answers are correct and honest.
Since these documents are voluminous it is recommended you put aside time each day to answer some questions. This task can definitely become overwhelming, so do not try to sit and tackle this task in one day
- Notice to Produce
This entails producing a number of documents, such as bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage statements and household bills to name a few. You may be asked to produce the documents for prior years, so keep in mind if you do not have these documents handy you may need to request them from the institution. The Notice to Produce should be the first document you review to ensure that you have adequate time to obtain any documents you may need.
At Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC, our New Jersey attorneys are here to help.