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What is “Discovery” in a California Divorce Case?

Documents, testimony and other information obtained in Discovery can be helpful.

Documents, testimony and other information obtained in Discovery can be helpful.

What is discovery in a divorce case?  The short answer – information, testimony and documents from the other side.  If you are in the process of a divorce, you may have already “discovered” many things about yourself, your spouse and the legal process of a divorce. During the divorce process, you may also find out that “discovery” can be a very helpful tool!

Discovery is a legal term referring to a fact-finding process that takes place after a divorce action has been filed and before the start of trial. Discovery requires the parties to disclose material facts and documents and allows the parties in the case to prepare for settlement or trial. In California State Courts, discovery is governed by the Discovery Act of 1986, which is found in the Code of Civil Procedure. Court Rules and State rules of evidence govern the discovery procedure as well.

In a divorce action, “discovery” typically consists of written interrogatories (written questions), demand for production of documents and depositions (testimony under oath).

Either party can send interrogatories to the other party to obtain relevant information. The Judicial Council has created questions tailored to divorce actions, which are known as “Form Interrogatories — Family Law”.  Questions in the Family Form Interrogatories include questions about agreements between the parties, children’s special needs, support provided or received from third parties, separate property contentions, claims for reimbursements and information relating to attorney fees.  The responding party has a specific timeframe in which to respond in writing to the questions.

Another Discovery vehicle often used in divorce cases is a demand for inspection and/or copying of documents. This may be particularly helpful when one party controls a business in which the marital community has an interest or when one spouse had primary control over financial records during the marriage. Similar to the written interrogatories, there is a specific timeframe in which to responds to a demand for inspection or copying of documents.  Taking the deposition of the adverse party, witnesses and experts is usually important if the case will likely go to trial or you are having difficulty obtaining discovery through the written requests. Unlike written discovery, the deponent’s attorney cannot help him/her with the answers. This form of discovery is usually more expensive than the others as you have to pay the court reporter and the attorney. Although each party to a divorce action is expected to comply with the full disclosure requirements found throughout the Family Code, from time to time additional Discovery is required in order to resolve the issues in a divorce.

Our skilled California divorce attorneys can help you obtain the necessary information that will assist you in reaching an informed and equitable resolution in your case.  To get help today, call us at 714 505-3000