To most, discovery production is without question the most daunting phase of the litigation process for divorce and other family law matters. It is invasive, it is onerous and utterly time-consuming. Without which, however, your attorney has no ability to facilitate/navigate settlement negotiations, nor to adequately litigate your case. Unless you and your adversary have already resolved all issues resulting from your case prior to retaining counsel, then it is highly likely that you will be engaging in the discovery process.
If you take the following necessary steps in anticipation of litigation, then you will find that discovery is actually quite doable:
- Begin to back up your text messages. More likely than not, you will be asked to produce text messages between yourself and your adversary or any other third-party. Please be aware that incomplete screenshots are not acceptable. In order to produce a complete, time and date-stamped record, which will be admissible at any trial, then you must purchase/download certain cell phone applications, such as PhoneView for iPhone or Mac users, and SMS to Text for Android users.
- Gather financial documents. If your case involves financial issues (child support, alimony, division of marital property, etc.), then you should gather the following statements from the past two-three years through the present date: tax returns; bank statements for each account titled in your sole or joint name; retirement statements for any account in which you have any interest; statements reflecting any stock or investment assets titled in your name; pay statements from your employer; a benefits and/or policy statement reflecting health, life, or disability insurance benefits; credit card statements, student loan statements, mortgage statements, and any documents reflecting any liabilities for which you are solely or jointly responsible.
- Organize electronic mail communications. Similar to text message production, you will most likely be asked to produce communications between yourself and your adversary or any other third party. Start to save your e-mail communications in PDF format. Make sure to save them in chronological order, and if necessary (in custody matters), separate and/or categorize them based upon subject matter.
- Fill out a Financial Statement. This can be obtained from the Family Law Forms Index on the Maryland Courts website: http://www.mdcourts.gov/family/formsindex.html . Though your attorney will most likely revise/edit your financial statement, it is always very helpful when clients provide a draft, as you know your monthly expenses, liabilities, and financial assets better than anyone else does.
Of course, this is just a start, and once the discovery process commences, there will be additional items (not mentioned above) that you will be asked to gather/produce. However, by completing the above-mentioned steps, you will find that you are already ten steps ahead before your case even begins.