In any family law case (divorce, child custody, child support, etc.), you may hear the term “discovery” used.  Although there are many kinds of discovery, this term is typically used to refer to formal, written discovery.  Common types of written discovery include a Request for Disclosure, Requests for Production, Interrogatories, and Requests for Admissions.

A Request for Disclosure is a standard set of questions that comes from Rule 194 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.  It is used in all types of civil cases, not just family law, and therefore many of the questions are not relevant in a family law case.  There is some helpful information to be gained from a Request for Disclosure, such as a list of persons with knowledge of relevant facts, so it is still common to see this type of discovery in family law matters.

Requests for Production ask a party to produce documents or other tangible things.  There is no limit to the number of requests for production a party can request, and it can become extremely time-consuming for a party to gather the requested documents.  It can also be extremely time-consuming to review the documents produced by the other party.  Examples of commonly requested documents are tax returns, school records, medical records, diaries, e-mails and texts.

Interrogatories are questions that seek a written answer from the other party.  In most case, parties are limited to serving 25 interrogatories on the other side, so it is important to make them count.  Common interrogatories include asking for a list of trial witnesses, asking for information on medical issues, or asking for specific financial information.

Requests for Admissions ask the opposing party to admit or deny a certain fact.  I normally find that people will deny almost everything based on some type of technicality, so I don’t use Requests for Admissions too often.  There are certain cases where there are facts that you really want the other party to admit or deny, so on occasion these can be helpful.

In my practice, I rarely initiate written discovery.  Most often I feel it is an unnecessary expense for the client where a lot of needless information is sought.  If there is a document or information I need, most attorneys will hand it over voluntarily.  That type of informal discovery streamlines the process tremendously.  However, if the other party serves written discovery, I will always serve written discovery on that party.  Some firms make it a standard practice to use written discovery in most cases.   If you are served with written discovery, it is important to meet the deadlines to answer or any valid objections you may have will be waived.

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If a case is contested, it will involve some form of discovery.  “Discovery” is a term that covers several different avenues for collecting information to use in the case.  In many cases, I like to do informal discovery.  Basically, this means that the other attorney and I will simply exchange requested information without a formal request.  This takes less time and saves on attorney’s fees.

Sometimes formal written discovery is needed.  Written discovery can include a Request for Disclosure, Interrogatories, Requests for Production, and Requests for Admission.

A Request for Disclosure is a specific set of questions laid out in Rule 194 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.  Many of the questions in a Request for Disclosure are not applicable in the family setting, and I rarely do a Request for Disclosure.  The relevant questions include laying our your legal theories and providing a list of persons with knowledge of relevant facts.

Interrogatories are specific written questions to the other side.  You are generally limited to 25 interrogatories, so use them wisely.  Most attorneys have standard interrogatories that they send out, depending on the issues in the case.  I like to tailor the interrogatories to each specific case.

Requests for Production are written requests for the other side to produce certain documents.  For example, in a child support case, you would want to request pay stubs and tax returns.  In a property dispute in a divorce case, you would want to request a wide variety of financial records.  There is no limit to the number of requests for production you can serve on the other side.

Requests for Admission are questions asking the other side to admit or deny certain facts. It is rare that the other side will just admit to a damaging fact.  I do not use these often in family cases.

In addition to written discovery, the parties can take depositions or subpoena records from third parties to gain additional information.

The Draper Law Firm

 

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