Legal Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce
Going into a divorce case knowing nothing or lacking information is a risky move. However, by sharing the information you have access to with your attorney, you can use it to your advantage. The attorney can then use their experience to assist you in negotiating a settlement or seeking relief in court if a settlement cannot be reached.
But what if you have a question about a piece of information that is critical to making a decision but lack access to the information and answers? Formal discovery requests can be made to the opposing party in Texas in order to obtain the information sought in civil cases. This post discusses the discovery process as well as information that may be useful in dealing with requests that may be made of you during your divorce.
Getting Divorced: What is Discovery?
Discovery is a procedure that both parties in a divorce can use to obtain the information they need to calculate the size of the community estate and learn about the other party’s position. There are allotted time periods in your case for discovery, depending on the type of discovery that the court has allowed. Once your case has been filed, consult with your attorney to determine what types of discovery requests are permissible and how quickly the requests must be submitted to the opposing party in order for discovery to be applied.
Types of Discovery
There are five types of written discovery requests that are generally applicable to a divorce in Texas:
Interrogatories: A discovery request is a list of questions sent to the other party that requires them to respond to questions about divorce-related issues. The responses they provide must be in writing and made under oath. These responses can also be used as evidence by the opposing party during trial proceedings.
- Here are some examples of frequently asked questions:
- the amount of money in a specific bank account
- employment information
- name and location of every institution in which the party has money accumulated
Request for Admissions
A request for admissions asks the opposing party to either “admit” or “deny” that a statement made is true. In most cases, the other party is required to admit or deny specific allegations or to confirm the authenticity of documents. There is also no limit to the number of requests for admissions on the authenticity of documents that can be made.
If the party whose responses are being sought fails to respond within the time frame specified, all of the requests are deemed to be granted. Failure to respond to the requests may result in your case being severely harmed, depending on the statements that are admitted to.
Sworn Inventory and Appraisal
The party responding to the sworn inventory and appraisal must list all assets that are known to them. The responding party must then state whether they believe the asset is the property of the community or separate entities of either party.
Request for Production and Inspection
In this request, the requesting party requests that the opposing party produce documents and allow the requesting party to inspect them.
The following records are frequently requested in divorce proceedings:
- mortgage documents
- bank account documents
- documents pertaining to income and retirement plans
- telephone logs
A party may object to certain requests if they believe they were made improperly.
Request for Disclosure: The most common discovery request available in Texas is for disclosure in civil cases. These requests will seek basic information about the party, such as their full and correct name, address, legal theories on subjects, and the names and addresses of any witnesses who may be called to testify during the course of the case.
Answering Discovery Requests
When you are the requesting party, discovery requests can be beneficial; however, having a request to complete can be difficult. What happens when you’re the one who has to answer all of the questions?
Discovery is an expensive process because responding to these requests takes time in most cases. Your responses are due within a certain amount of time, which can put additional pressure on efficiently responding to your opposing party’s requests.
Clients and attorneys work best during the discovery phase of cases when they communicate early about the responses to discovery requests in order to make it as efficient as possible. It is typical for your responses to go through two or three rounds of revision before they are ready to be submitted to the opposing party.
Follow your attorney’s instructions and advice, and begin collecting your answers and documents as soon as you receive the discovery requests.
One of the most important phases of a divorce case is the discovery phase. How you respond to the other party’s requests can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. When you consider the time and money commitments that come with discovery, it should be clear that hiring an attorney who has experience responding to and requesting discovery is critical.
If you have any questions about the subject we just discussed, please visit an experienced divorce attorney. Our family law attorneys provide free consultations in our office or over the phone. A consultation provides you with an excellent opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback about your situation. We hope to hear from you if you have any questions.