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Discovery in Contested Divorce & Family Law Cases

Discovery in Contested Divorce & Family Law Cases

In Georgia, discovery is a pre-trial phase in a law suit in which each party can obtain evidence from the opposing party through several method and devices, including interrogatories, request for production, requests for admission and depositions. In divorce and family law cases, parties are required to disclose relevant information so as not to defraud each other (or the court) in arriving at a fair and accurate settlement.  The general provisions for written discovery and depositions can be found under Georgia law at O.C.G.A. Section 9-11-26.

Interrogatories and Notices to Produce

As a party in a divorce or family law case, whether you are the plaintiff or defendant, you can be served with an interrogatory or a notice to produce things or documents. While you are entitled to object to discovery requests, the opposing party may seek the assistance of the court by filing a motion to compel discovery, in which case the court would force you to reply. Failure to cooperate with the discovery process can result in the non-compliant party having to pay the other sides legal fees, and their defenses / case not being allowed to be heard in court.  In rare instances, a party may even be incarcerated for not cooperating with discovery, so it is best to be reasonable and try to be helpful in the discovery process.  Remember however, discovery is not a one sided process.  You can also have your attorney serve discovery on the opposing party in your case, and in most instances you should as soon as possible.

Complying with Discovery Requests

In contested divorce and family law cases, discovery requests can be burdensome and extensive, but refusal to comply can often cause more problems than it is worth to ignore the request. It is usually in your best interest to supply all requested documents, since it is ultimately at the discretion of the other parties’ attorney which documents will be relevant to the case.  However, this is not to say that you should never object to discovery requests. If you feel the discovery process is being used against you to harass rather than actually request information useful to the other parties’ case, you should discuss filing objections as soon as possible with an experienced Georgia divorce and family law attorney.

Common Discovery Requests for Documents, Things and Information

Documents that you will need to supply may include bank statements, tax returns, utility and other bills as well as receipts for purchases, including groceries. The production of things can also be requested.  Common examples of things and objects that may be requested include books, notes, credit card statements, cell phones, pictures, computers, hard drives, receipts, journals, diaries, gifts, cards, jewelry, insurance policies, prescriptions, medical records, tapes, videos, etc.  The list is endless, but the request should be in writing and only include information and things that are relevant to the case. While it is common for the parties to disagree about what may be relevant in a case, the court usually allows almost anything that can be reasonably calculated to be useful at trial to be requested by the other party.

Depositions

The process of discovery after a contested case has been filed usually involves the drafting of the interrogatories by each party’s lawyer. The request have to be in writing and drafted in accordance with Georgia law. The parties can also ask each other to produce documents similar to the ones listed above through their lawyers. In addition to interrogatories and request for production, some divorce and family law cases include depositions. Once the lawyers of both parties have sifted through the answers and documents, there is usually a questioning under oath called a deposition. Other people (third parties, such as relatives, friends, paramours, etc.) may be questioned at the deposition if they are deemed to have information that is relevant to the case. The general provision for depositions can be found under Georgia law at O.C.G.A. Section 9-11-30.

At a deposition, a party can be questioned under oath about any relevant topics related to the case, and they can also be required to bring documents and things to the deposition. In depositions, it is common to be asked questions about several documents and sometimes various pictures or objects. A deposition may last only a couple of hours or may go on for several hours or even days.  Depositions can be very stressful, and it is best to seek legal assistance to prepare for a depositions.  Either party can ask for a deposition, so if you are presented with a request for a deposition, remember that you can also ask the other party to sit for a deposition and be questioned by you or your attorney for your benefit also.

If you are facing a divorce or family law case in the Cumming Georgia area and have questions about the differing discovery tools utilized in cases, contact us at 770-609-1247 to discuss your case with an experienced Cumming Georgia divorce and family law attorney.

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