During a divorce, one essential aspect is the division of property. To divide property between parties fairly, both spouses must provide information about their assets, property, and debts. This exchange of information is called discovery. When spouses are getting an uncontested divorce, this may be information they give to each other voluntarily to make negotiation or mediation go more smoothly. In some uncontested and in all contested divorces, discovery is a formal and court-ordered process.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces
A divorce is made up of several types of family law cases, including:
- Division of property
- Determining alimony
- Calculating child support
- Determining child custody and visitation
During an uncontested divorce, spouses agree on or can easily negotiate these aspects. This makes the process faster, less stressful, and less expensive. It also means spouses are willing to work together, which is particularly beneficial if they have children together. Discovery still exists in an uncontested divorce, but it is often informal.
However, if a couple is unable to reach agreements regarding these main aspects of a divorce, they must file for a contested divorce. This is when a divorce goes to trial, and the outcome is determined by a judge. Discovery during litigation is more serious.
The discovery process helps the attorneys of both parties better understand the financial picture of the divorce. An official discovery process includes the exchange of information such as:
- Income and assets
- Stocks and bonds
- Business information
- Real estate and property documents
- Federal and state tax returns
- Information about children involved in a divorce
During a contested divorce, the court divides marital property according to equitable distribution laws. Property is split fairly, but not necessarily equally, between parties. In order to split assets and debts, both attorneys and the court need to have a complete understanding of separate and marital property. The discovery process can also prevent hidden assets.
Discovery In a Contested Divorce
The formal discovery process begins when one spouse files for divorce. There are several types of discovery. Some divorces may require all steps of discovery, while others may only need one or two. The most common types of discovery are interrogatories and depositions.
An interrogatory is when questions are asked by one party to the other that are answered in writing and under oath. These lists are usually limited to 30 questions, although the court may allow additional interrogatories if they find good cause. The questions in an interrogatory must be answered fully and completely. The party receiving the interrogatory can object to the questions if they are harassing or otherwise objectionable.
Interrogatories are exchanged between parties to get a better understanding of the legal and financial matters in the divorce case. They are not filed with the court. Responses to interrogatories need to be completed in 28 days.
- Request for Production
This is an official request from one spouse to the other to produce certain documents and records. The other spouse has 30 days to produce those documents, and these are not filed with the court. These requests can also be objectionable if they are unreasonable or not made in good faith. Requests for the production of documents often include deeds and titles to property, bank statements, and similar supporting documents.
Depositions are in-person or video conference interviews. The person under deposition testifies to an attorney under oath and answers certain questions. They may then be questioned by the other party’s attorney. Deposition can help attorneys understand certain information they gained from discovery or understand how the case may go during the trial. If the information in a deposition contradicts the information given in the trial, the witness can be charged.
Depositions can take several hours and can be extended. If a divorce case is especially complex, there may be several depositions.
A subpoena is necessary if one party suspects that the other did not provide the necessary information during the other steps in discovery. It can also be used to get information from third parties, such as banks, hospitals, schools, or other relevant professional authorities. A subpoena is a court-ordered request for documents. They are often necessary for high-conflict divorces or high-net-worth divorces where hidden assets are more likely.
Q: What Does Discovery Show in a Divorce?
A: Discovery allows both spouses a full picture of financial assets, debts, and other information about the other. Information provided in the discovery process may include property deeds, income and pay stubs, investments, tax returns, business information, and expenses. The process of discovery may be voluntary in some uncontested divorces, or it may be court-ordered.
Q: How Far Back Does Discovery Go in a Divorce?
A: Each divorce is unique, and the discovery process can address a range of information. In many cases, the information requested in discovery goes back 2 to 5 years. However, if a marriage lasted a much shorter amount of time, there may not be cause to go as far back in discovery. In other cases, the discovery process can go back further. If documents are relevant to the divorce and the assets in the divorce, the discovery of information may not have a time limit. Always discuss with your attorney what information you need to gather for a divorce discovery.
Q: How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Kansas?
A: A contested divorce takes much longer than an uncontested divorce and could take a year or several years. An uncontested divorce may take as little as two months to meet the mandatory 60-day waiting period. A contested divorce will have several court dates where parties can advocate for their interests. The more contentious or complex a divorce is, the longer it will take. The more aspects a divorce has, such as child custody, high-asset property division, or allegations of misconduct, the longer it will take.
Q: What Are Good Discovery Questions for Divorce?
A: Many states have standard questions for divorce interrogatories. Some useful questions for divorce discovery may concern information such as:
- Your spouse’s current income
- Any properties they own
- Any other sources of income
- Their outstanding debts
- Their employment history
- Their financial obligations and expenses
- The witnesses they will call at trial
Legal Counsel in Kansas City
The discovery process is much easier with experienced legal representation. Contact Stange Law Firm today to see how we can help.