Dealing with the legal aspects of divorce can be convoluted, time-consuming, and frustrating. Therefore, it can seem overwhelming. The attorneys on both sides want to start with as much information as possible. You can hire divorce attorneys to gather and exchange this information.
This process is called an interrogatory or discovery, and it can work against you if you are not careful. Below is an explanation of the process. That way, you can understand it a bit better and proceed with more knowledge and caution.
What Is Discovery?
In any legal proceeding, each side has information that the other side needs before moving forward with negotiations or going to court. Remember, that information is exchanged during the discovery process.
There are several types of discovery for legal proceedings. The discovery form a divorce is called an interrogatory because of the way the questionnaire is designed.
Most states have a limit to the number of items on the interrogatory questionnaire. That way, one side does not bog the other side down with too much busywork. If given the chance, some lawyers would give the opposition an amount of information that is impossible to acquire.
A maximum response time is also allowed, which ensures that the divorce does not get held up because one side takes too much time with the discovery. The usual response time is around 30 days, but you should follow up with your state to make sure. There is an option to ask for an extension, but for it to be granted, you will need to show a good reason and an open line of communication with the other side.
This interrogatory involves the exchange of financial information for the division of property and alimony.
These questionnaires vary, but they universally ask for the following information in one form or another:
- An itemization of income and assets
- A record of how often you are paid
- A list of all bank and investment accounts
- The identity of witnesses you will be using in the case
- Exhibits and evidence you will be using if the case goes to court
This exchange of information is used to determine the custody of the children, which is when a lot of divorces get difficult. It is never a good idea to let any kind of emotional response through in a discovery document, so try to remain as factual as possible.
The interrogatory will mainly consist of questions about your spouse, especially regarding anything that might deem them as an unfit parent.
If you make any allegations claiming that your spouse is unfit, make sure that they are accurate. Then you can easily back them up with a good amount of proper evidence. If you are stretching the truth in any way, it will backfire and make you look bad in the eyes of the court.
There will also be a list to prove childcare expenses so that any child-support deals can be worked out. The requested expenses will mainly consist of:
- Tuition and school supplies
- Extracurricular activities
- Medical treatment
There is also a space on the custody interrogatory, where you can respond to any allegations that have been made against your character. Make sure to provide as much evidence as possible that proves that the allegations are false, which can include character-witness affidavits, affidavits from teachers and coaches, emails, and texts.
Watch Out for Trick Questions
One cannot stress how important it is to follow instructions to the letter. It is a lawyer’s job to try to get more out of the other side whenever possible, so bear in mind that any interrogatory used in a divorce proceeding will use as much legalese as possible. It is always a good idea to get outside consulting, either from a lawyer or a divorce coach. Then you can make sure that you have not missed anything, and that you have not provided too much information.
Make sure that you have checked, rechecked, and triple-checked everything. This process is another reason why it is a good idea to hire an outside consultant. Objective, fresh eyes will help you see mistakes, especially anything that is missing, which could count against you in court.
Do not put this process off until the last minute. It makes you more vulnerable to mistakes, and it raises the impact of the stress of the divorce, which is already going to be stressful enough.
As you can see, an interrogatory is one of the most important parts of your divorce process. To move forward in a way that benefits you, you need to answer interrogatories that your spouse’s divorce attorneys send you in the best, most strategic way possible.
The best strategy is to supply exactly the right amount of information, but it is extremely difficult to implement. You need your attorney to go through it with you, but it can be time-consuming. And remember, lawyers’ billable hours can be very costly.
To save yourself headaches, ask your attorney to help you with the interrogatory process. They have been trained to know exactly how to handle these kinds of questions to maximize your benefit.
Whichever way you choose to go, it is always advised to get started early. The sooner you get it filled out, the sooner the divorce can wrap up, and you can move forward.