Understanding Discovery in Divorce Part 2-Responding to Discovery
Discovery can seem overwhelming. It can also be very time consuming and confusing. Many people get angry when they see what their former spouse is requesting of them. However, your attorney can guide you and narrow the requests down to what you need to provide, and coach you on any appropriate objections.
When you receive a discovery request from your former spouse it is important that it not go unanswered. There are very specific deadlines involved in discovery. If you are self-represented and unsure of what to do, it is important to consult an attorney. Missing discovery deadlines can cause you to waive your right to object to the requests.
Generally speaking, the information sought from you must be relevant to the issues in your case. Your former spouse cannot use discovery to harass you about irrelevant personal gripes unless there is a legitimate tie to the issues in your case. Because California is a no-fault divorce state, this means you cannot be forced to answer questions about allegations of infidelity unless there is a legitimate financial reason, such as allegations of misappropriation of funds spent not for the benefit of the community.
However, discovery is not limited to financial issues. It can include requests related to the minor children and allegations of domestic violence to name a few. Your attorney can help you evaluate relevance of any questionable demands.
When responding, it is important that there is honesty and a good faith effort to provide documents. Some requests may seem redundant, but if there are documents you have access to, you are likely going to have to provide them.
What happens if the response deadline is missed? First and foremost, see if you can agree to extend the deadline before you miss it if you need more time. Deadline extensions are not uncommon, and can be agreed upon. However, if the deadline has past and no responses were provided, then the right to object has been waived, and even irrelevant of otherwise objectionable requests must be answered. If this occurs, it is important to consult an attorney to see what, if anything, can be done to protect you.
Once you send your responses to the discovery, it is not unusual to receive a letter seeking to “meet and confer” on the responses. This is a letter detailing any deficiencies your former spouse might see with your responses. If the deficiencies continue, they may file a Motion to Compel. This is a request seeking a court order for you to respond. It is important to consult an attorney if this motion is filed, because you could be liable for the attorney’s fees of the filing party if you unsuccessfully oppose a motion.
Overall, discovery can be confusing and comes with possible serious consequences. Seek an attorney’s assistance early on if you feel overwhelmed with the process.