What In Tarnation is Discovery?

During the litigation process (if you go that route), you will eventually have to deal with “discovery.” The discovery process can include written interrogatories (questions that you have to answer in writing and under oath), requests for production of documents (which require you to put together documents for review by your spouse’s attorney – even ones that you can’t get conveniently), requests for admission (basically true or false statements), and depositions (where you are sworn in like you would be in court and answer, in person, opposing counsel’s questions in front of a transcriptionist).

Unless you are compulsively organized and a pack rat, most clients don’t enjoy the discovery process. It takes a lot of time, some of it seems self-evident, and it can cost a lot of money. So, scaling discovery to the issues in a case is important. But discovery itself is important, too. It’s one of our best tools as attorneys in helping you know what you’re entitled to, making sure we haven’t missed anything, and building your case.

You can help yourself, too, by knowing this process is coming. When you’re writing emails or texts – you are creating a record.  Make sure, for instance, when you’re writing to your spouse that you’re being respectful, rational, and calm – not always an easy thing to muster in the midst of a divorce. Act as though the words you write are going to be read by a judge – because they may be. Keep this in mind, too, as you are writing in other spaces to other people. Your Facebook account, your text messages, your dating profiles(!) are fair game in the discovery process. And, no, you can’t just omit these things or destroy them – that’ll just get you in worse trouble than if you’d produced them in the first place.

The good news is that you can help yourself. Ask your attorney at the beginning of the process for sample discovery. What is propounded by your spouse or your spouse’s counsel will inevitably be different, but probably not dramatically so. So you can use the sample as a guide to start assembling documents and so you know what your spouse will need to produce eventually, too.

You can also organize your documents – the more meticulously, the better! You can save yourself time and (potentially a lot of) money by organizing your documents in a way that makes sense (usually chronologically) and tabbing things that you have questions or concerns about.

You should NOT hold documents back. If there is an item you are concerned about, put it in with everything else you’ve produced, and bring it to your attorney’s attention so you can discuss it. One of the fastest ways to hurt yourself is to have your attorney blindsided by a document coming from the other side that you should have produced first.

For sure your attorney will help you through this process, but the more forward-thinking and forward-working you are about it, the less onerous the task will be for everyone.