At some point in the Texas divorce process there is a good chance your ex will serve you with documents known as Discovery. During our divorce cases it is not uncommon for us to hear from our clients our clients all kinds of complaints regarding answering discovery requests.
As a Houston Divorce Lawyer I do not and am not aware of any other Texas Divorce Lawyer that enjoys the discovery process any more than their clients. However, Discovery serves an important part of the divorce process.
Discovery usually involves one or more of the following documents:
Discovery requests contain questions that you must answer and documents that you must produce. You are required by law to respond to these discovery requests.
Request for Production and Inspection
The Request for Production and Inspection contains a list of documents that you must present. This discovery tool is useful because it allows you to ask for just about any document you may want.
Most frequently requested items are for financial records such as bank accounts, 401(k) plans, stock options, income, gifts to people other than the spouse, safe deposit boxes, telephone records, insurance plans, and credit card statements.
Interrogatories contain a list of questions that you must answer. Some questions make multiple requests, so please be sure to answer each and every part to each question.
These questions require responses about relevant issues, such as the location of bank accounts, balances in those accounts and signatory privileges on the accounts. Although almost anything relevant to the case can be asked, the total number of questions is limited to 25.
Another thing to consider is that because the questions are limited to 25 you may not want to ask about financial questions unless necessary because that information should be produced through the use of a sworn inventory or the requests for production. These questions are signed under oath.
Rule 194 Requests for Disclosure
The Rule 194 Requests for Disclosure contains a list of standard questions that you must answer in every civil case. The questions require parties to identify persons with information relevant to the case, identify expert witnesses, detail the legal contentions and specify any economic damages.
How Quickly Must I Answer Discovery Requests?
In most circumstances once you are served with Discovery requests you have 30 days to respond.
However, because preparing the discovery can be a very time consuming process we like to get the rough responses back from our clients within a couple weeks to allow us to organize formal responses.
Request for Admission:
Requests for Admission are statements that the opposing party must either admit or deny.
If they fail to respondent, they must state a reason why the statements can neither be admitted nor denied.
Once a response is given they are stuck with the answers, and failure to answer them will result in all of the requests being deemed admitted.
Sworn Inventory and Appraisement:
This discovery tool is unique to divorce cases. It requires a party to list every asset he or she knows about.
The party also has to characterize the assets as either separate property or community property and to place a value on it. This document is signed under oath, so a party who deliberately hides assets will be subject to penalties and remedies from the court.
Depositions are a form of oral discovery. These are witness examinations taken under oath in front of a court reporter. Any witness with information that will affect the case can be deposed. Under Texas law, the deposition testimony can be presented to the court as if the witness were testifying in person before the court.
Depositions are often times most useful after the other discovery tools have been used. This because you can then ask questions regarding their responses to prior discovery.
What if I do not Respond?
I have more than one client tell me that "That it is none of the other party’s business!" If the discovery is objectionable your lawyer will object. However, during the divorce process there are a lot of things that can legally be asked for.
Be advised that your failure to respond to the discovery requests or responding to them late allows the opposing party to request a number of sanctions and penalties against you, including but not limited to payment of fees and the opposing attorney’s fees.
Ultimately, responding to discovery is your responsibility. It is not something that your lawyer can do for you.
What is the purpose of Discovery?
Although Discovery can be unpleasant during a Texas Divorce many times it is exactly what your divorce attorney needs to prove your case.
This is because it is your divorce lawyer’s job to take and use the facts of your situation to build your case whether it is to get you a “just and right division of the property.” Or to try and get you custody of your children.
It is important to put the effort in at the beginning this will allow for more persuasive arguments later in the case in mediation or in court. It is difficult to have a meaningful mediation if we do not know what the property is.
This also will save you money in attorney's fees if we are able settle the case early on in mediation rather than later because we did not do our homework at the beginning.
Other Articles you may be interested in:
You've filed your Divorce... now what? The "Discovery Process" and why it's important
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
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