What is “Discovery” and Do I Really Need to Respond?

In Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

Contrary to what we are shown on television, legal cases are not all about courtroom drama, unexpected twists, intrigue, or forbidden romance. Instead, a lot of it can be quite tedious. This is because there are highly technical rules of procedure and rules of evidence that attorneys must strictly comply with, which often involves creating and reviewing legal documents. Among the most time consuming of an attorney’s duties involves “discovery.”

Discovery is the formal process in which parties to a lawsuit obtain information from one another. The ultimate purpose of discovery is fairness: it provides the parties with notice of the evidence and legal issues that may arise at trial. There are rules and court orders that prescribe what type of information each party is entitled to, the format in which it is requested, and the time frames in which discovery must be answered. The most common forms include:

  1. Request for Admissions—these are a list of yes/no questions that essentially ask a party to “admit” or “deny” specific allegations relating to the case.
  2. Request for Interrogatories—interrogatories are questions that ask for comprehensive answers regarding issues, legal theories, and the evidence.
  3. Request for Production—this is a request for relevant records and documents, such as bank records, financial statements, medical records, and insurance paperwork.
  4. Depositions—this is essentially party or witness testimony taken formally under oath that can be used to lock people into testimony so they cannot later change at trial.

Attorneys Need Cooperation from their Clients to Prepare Discovery

As attorneys, we don’t know what we don’t know. In other words, the person who knows the most about you, your children, your spouse, your marriage, and your property, is you. We rely on as much information as possible from our clients so that we can request the proper records, subpoena the correct people, and obtain the appropriate experts for your case. Further, if your attorney asks for information regarding discovery, it is not to waste time or to drive up costs; instead, it is to properly prepare and respond to critical discovery requests. In fact, failing to respond to discovery can be far more costly than spending the time to get it right.

The Consequence of Failing to Respond to Discovery

Discovery is legally binding. With few exceptions, a failure to properly respond to discovery can cause real, irreversible damage to your case. For example, failure to respond to a request for admissions can result in an “admission” of something that isn’t true. Further, failure to respond to the production of documents can result in your attorney’s inability to present those documents or information at trial. In extreme circumstances, the judge can dismiss your suit or enter a default judgment against you, meaning you do not even get to have a trial.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

Separations, divorces, property division, and child custody disputes are incredibly high stakes lawsuits that require a thorough knowledge of the law and an attention to detail. At New Direction Family Law, we take pride in providing both when guiding our clients through this dark time in their lives. If you need family law assistance, let us assist you by getting things right the first time. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or visit us online at our website.

Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law
(919) 719-3470