Discovery is a legal term that encompasses each party’s right to literally “discover” everything they can about the other party that is relevant to a divorce or other family law issue, prior to trying to reach a settlement or going to trial.
The main discovery tools in family law matters are the parties’ Mandatory Disclosure, Financial Affidavits, responses to Requests to Produce, and the other party’s Answers to Interrogatories. (Depositions and Notices of Production to Third Parties will be discussed in another blog). Following is a brief description of each of these.
- Mandatory Disclosure Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure 12.285(e) sets out a list of documents that a party must supply to the opposing party. They include such items as tax returns, pay stubs, deeds to property, bank statements, insurance information, retirement accounts and credit cards. A party must use good faith reasonable efforts to obtain the required documents.
- A Financial Affidavit is a snapshot of a party’s finances at the time the form is filled in. It includes income and expense information and assets and liabilities. It is extremely important to make sure that it is accurate. A judge may use this as a tool in making financial decisions in your case. The judge may also sanction you if you put incorrect information on your financial affidavit.
- A Request to Produce is a list of documents in addition to Mandatory Disclosure that one party can ask the other to produce. Sometimes there are issues in a case that the documents supplied through Mandatory Disclosure do not cover. This could happen because documents may be required from an earlier time or for an issue that is peculiar to the case at hand.
- Answers to Interrogatories are the answers that the opposing party gives to written questions served upon them. They can come in the form of Standard Family Law Interrogatories which is a list of standard questions or Special Interrogatories which are questions designed and asked to solicit information on subjects peculiar to the case.
Asking for the right information and analyzing the responses is an extremely important aspect of every family law case. Make sure you have an experienced family law attorney to ensure your case is handled properly.