Discovery is a legal term that refers to the sharing of information by both parties in a legal dispute. California family courts require discovery during divorce proceedings so that fair decisions are made regarding dividing assets and reaching appropriate compensation when applicable. Important items like spousal support and child support depend heavily on discovery. Failure to fully cooperate with the discovery process could lead to contempt of court and other unpleasant consequences.
Three types of discovery
A divorce discovery process will mostly focus on the assets, earnings and debts of each spouse. The discovery process seeks documents affirming assets, income and debts for both spouses. Assets include real property, investment assets, financial accounts and similar tangible assets. Any kind of income must be reported, and debts must be accounted via documentation. In extreme cases, one or both parties might hire private investigators to obtain and document information about the opposing party.
Interrogatories seek written responses
Interrogatories are another type of discovery and are written questions designed to obtain very specific responses from the opposing party. Some questions are very broad in nature, such as the state of relationships with children. More specific questions might relate to income levels and other items that are clearly intended to obtain very specific responses, which could be used as leverage to damage the other party’s case.
Depositions are more formal
Depositions are responses to questions asked by an attorney with a court reporter documenting all questions and answers. The person being deposed is sworn in as with any court proceeding, but no judge is present. The court reporter represents the family court and is there to serve as an impartial third party recording the entire proceeding for the legal record. The deposition seeks to establish facts and is never a time to guess when answering questions.
If you are considering or going through divorce, you may need help understanding the legal complexities involved. An experienced California family law attorney may explain how the discovery process likely would apply in your case and how to make it work for you.