What is Discovery?

A common question that is asked in family law is: “what is discovery?” Discovery is a process in which one party requests documents and information from the other party. Discovery can be both formal or informal in family law. While informal discovery can be much less expensive and time-consuming, you might be limited to what the other party is willing to provide you with. There are several types of formal discovery, which can be critical to your case and ultimate outcome.

The California Courts describe the types of formal discovery as:

  • Interrogatories
  • Written questions that one party sends to the other party.
  • Two types: Form and Special.
    • Form: Standard questions prepared by the state Court system that are the same on a case to case basis that ask details about family law matters.
    • Special: Case specific questions that are not included in the state forms and are typically prepared by an attorney. They cover any topic that is relevant and at issue to the case.
  • Must be answered, under penalty of perjury, within 30 days of service.
  • Requests for Admission
  • Questions that ask for the other party to admit or deny certain facts.
  • Statements that are not denied or objected to within 30 days are considered to be admitted.
  • Used to resolve those issues that do not need to be argued at trial.
  • Requests for Production of Documents or Things
  • Used by one party to ask the other party to turn over particular documents.
  • Common requests: bank statements, paystubs, tax returns, credit card statements, etc.
  • Subpoenas
  • Official document ordering a witness, corporation, or bank to produce certain documents.
  • Failure to comply with terms of subpoena may result in penalties.
  • Depositions
  • Proceeding in which a witness or party is asked to answer questions orally under oath.
  • Not taken in front of a judge, but in a less formal setting, like an attorney’s office.
  • Court reporter will record/videotape the deposition and create deposition transcript which can be used at trial to contradict what the witness is saying.
  • Person deposed (deponent) may be asked to bring documents to the deposition and answer questions about them.
  • Testimony may indicate what a witness knows and can be used as evidence at trial.
  • Other
  • Inspection Demands, Physical and Mental Examinations, Vocational Exams, Expert Witness, Disclosures, and Preliminary/ Final Declarations of Disclosures.
  • Note: Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure are mandatory in all divorce cases.

If you have questions about the discovery process in your family law case, contact Morales Law at (805)422-7966 or at www.mysantabarbaralawyer.com. THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. We are Santa Barbara Divorce Lawyers. Factual circumstances will vary and require specific procedures. This is for informational purposes only and should not be relied prior to, or in place of, consulting with legal counsel.