There are many things that you discover about yourself and your spouse during the divorce process. As you look back at your relationship, you may ask: Why did we get together? How did we get off track? Or where do we go from here? The legal discovery process goes beyond an emotional introspection to a practical one, with questions such as: What are our shared assets? How are we going to arrange custody? And what information are you going to share in court?
Discovery is a legal process that is initiated by a lawyer long before the actual divorce proceeding starts. It is where one party requests specific information from the other, ranging from bank statements to tax returns, to prepare for the court case and avoid information exclusion or ambush that could result in the unfair or illegal distribution of marital assets and debts.
If your divorce is uncontested, the general information acquired during a voluntary discovery process, such as financial documents and credit card statements, will be used as supporting evidence to the alimony and custody agreements you have already discussed and will help you reach an acceptable agreement and divorce sooner. However, if your soon-to-be ex is not forthcoming regarding income, debt, property ownership, home assessments, or investments, a more formal discovery process should be implemented. There are many ways to obtain pertinent information – interrogatories, depositions, and subpoenas that help your legal representatives get the information they need to represent you.
Interrogatory is a written list of specific questions that help clarify marital assets, debt, and the factors surrounding a divorce. The questions can also request the allegations that will be presented during the court hearing and what evidence the other side plans to reference, including witness statements. In Florida, the initial interrogatories should not exceed 30 questions, including all subparts. If necessary, the court can request more questions when it pertains to a specific motion or notice.
In a contentious divorce, detailed support information can also be obtained by a deposition, or an out-of-court statement of evidence given under oath. In the deposition, detailed questions will be asked about many aspects of the relationship that can span from assets to infidelity. Different from an interrogatory, a deposition gives the legal representative more opportunity to ask more clarifying questions during the process. Documented by an appointed court recorder, the transcripts, in either written or video form, will be provided to both sides before the court appearance and be permissible during the divorce trial. Request for depositions can extend beyond the separating spouses to include family members, business colleagues, or close friends. Choosing not to participate in a deposition when formally requested can result in a contempt of court punishment, making it a reliable portion of the evidence discovery process.
If it looks as if one party has failed to provide all of the requested information or is suspected of hiding assets or pertinent details, the other party can subpoena the missing information or request additional information from banks, financial advisors, and even witnesses. Depending on the severity and complexity of the case, any number of people can be required to provide a deposition or testimony as evidence. Similar to a deposition, refusal to act on the supeana can also be seen as contempt of court.
Acquiring the right information during the dissolution of a marriage can be daunting, but with the proper legal guidance and emotional support, it can be the start of something great. The most important outcome of the discovery phase of the divorce is when it is coupled with self-discovery. It is an opportunity to reinvigorate your life and the person you are. You don’t need a formal request from the court to start a new life; you just have to choose to rediscover it.