Going through a contested divorce can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. When spouses are in disagreement over various issues, the process becomes even more difficult. One crucial aspect of resolving contested divorces in Georgia is the discovery process. Let’s explore what discovery is and why it plays a vital role in the legal process of divorce.
Understanding the Divorce Discovery Process
What is Discovery?
Discovery is a legal process where each party gathers evidence and information from the other. In a contested divorce, spouses often have conflicting views on matters like asset division, alimony, child support and child custody. Discovery allows them to obtain evidence – information and documents – from the other party that they may not have in their own possession..
Why is Discovery Important?
In contested divorces, information is often key. Discovery provides a structured way for both parties to disclose relevant details, helping to avoid surprises in court. It ensures transparency, enabling a fair resolution by allowing each side to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the other’s case.
Different Forms of Discovery
The process of discovery in Georgia divorce cases adheres to the regulations outlined in Georgia’s Civil Practice Act. Georgia provides various formal discovery methods for divorces.
These are written questions exchanged between parties, aimed at gathering specific information. Typically, interrogatories seek information like the names and addresses of key witnesses, employment history, and details about anyone the other spouse may have been involved with during the marriage.
As per O.C.G.A. § 9-11-33(a)(1), each side is restricted to fifty interrogatories, counting any subparts. Attorneys can present all fifty at once or ask them at different times during the discovery process.
- Requests for Production
This is a request for documents or tangible items relevant to the case. Usually, when an attorney sends Interrogatories to the other party, they often include Requests for Production of Documents.
If the attorney wants to see certain documents, like pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, or cell phone records, they request copies in the Request for Production of Documents. Unlike Interrogatories, there’s no specific limit on how many Requests for Production of Documents an attorney can make.
- Requests for Admission
These are statements presented to the other party, who must either admit or deny their veracity. Like with answering interrogatories, you can choose to object to a request instead of answering, but you must explain your objection. If the objection is deemed unjustified, the Court may order you to answer and cover the other party’s attorney fees for getting the answers. If the Court sees that your response is not enough, it might ask for a better, amended response.
These are oral examinations conducted under oath, allowing attorneys to question parties or witnesses in person.
According to Georgia law, any party involved in a divorce case can hold depositions at any point during discovery. The party conducting the deposition needs to provide reasonable written notice, typically at least ten (10) days, indicating when and where the deposition will occur.
If a witness or party refuses to participate, they may be compelled by a subpoena or a Court order. During the deposition, the witness gives sworn testimony, recorded through video and/or audio. Both parties’ attorneys can raise objections during this process.
If someone can show that the deposition is conducted in bad faith, they can ask the Court to limit or stop it. The witness also has the right to review the deposition transcript. If there are errors, they can make corrections, providing a signed statement explaining the edits and the reasons behind them.
Sometimes, it might be essential to gather evidence beyond what the Court mandates and this is known as informal discovery. Informal discovery involves a more cooperative approach where both parties voluntarily share information. This can include informal interviews, joint document reviews, and open discussions.
You don’t necessarily require the assistance of an attorney or formal discovery tools to get the information you deserve in your divorce. Taking a proactive approach to informal discovery and gathering information can significantly assist your attorney, saving both time and money.
What Happens if One Fails to Respond to Discovery?
In Georgia, failing to respond to discovery requests can have serious consequences. The court may compel the non-complying party to respond, and in extreme cases, it could lead to sanctions, impacting the outcome of the case.
Do I Have the Right Not to Respond to Discovery?
While you have the right to object to certain requests, refusing to respond entirely can be detrimental to your case. Strategic and thoughtful responses can help protect your interests.
Learn More About Discovery from a Divorce Attorney
Navigating the discovery process in a contested divorce can be intricate. Seeking guidance from a knowledgeable divorce attorney can ensure you understand your rights, obligations, and the best strategies to protect your interests.
Contested divorces are challenging, but with the right legal guidance, you can navigate them successfully. The Edwards Law Group is here to provide compassionate support and expert advice. Let us help you move forward with confidence.
Contact The Edwards Law Group today for a consultation and take the first step toward a brighter future.