Divorce and Family Law – The Basics of Discovery

Divorce and Family Law – The Basics of Discovery

Interrogatories: Written questions from Plaintiff to Defendant or from Defendant to Plaintiff. These questions are drafted by the lawyers of each party and are sent by mail; a response in writing 30 days from the date they were received is required. Interrogatories can be served before or after a deposition, or both. Although discovery can be requested of non-parties through the use of subpoenas, you cannot serve interrogatories to third parties.

According to O.C.G.A. §9-11-33(a)(1), the total number of interrogatories is limited to fifty, including subparts, unless a special exemption is granted by the court.

Deposition: A procedure where written questions are asked of the Plaintiff or Defendant for immediate response. Depositions are usually recorded by a court reporter and all parties are sworn to tell the truth before the procedure begins. Under Georgia law, a deposition cannot last more than seven hours.

Written discovery procedures are better to bring in the core information since they are more cost effective than depositions, but depositions are a good tool for clarifying certain claims or details pertaining to the case. Since the deposition is also a direct, conversational method of gathering information, it can be more informative than a written response that was crafted with less time constraint and with legal counsel.

Production of Documents: The method of obtaining documents that may be relevant to the trial.

Requests for Admissions: Written questions that request the other party to admit or deny a certain relevant fact. If a matter is admitted, then the requesting party does not have to go through the time and expense of proving it during the trial. If a party that has been served a request for admission does not respond within thirty days, then the matter is considered admitted.

Objections: Objections may be made to discovery requests by filing the relevant paperwork. Objecting to supply information during the discovery process is usually not in your best interest, since the court can compel you to provide the information after reviewing your request, and in the meantime, you have wasted time and money getting it reviewed. Only certain information is considered privileged – see below for some examples.

Formal vs. Informal Discovery:

Informal Discovery involves counsel exchanging documents voluntarily and upon request. This method will be much less expensive than formal discovery. It is in your best interest to provide your lawyer with all of the documents and information you have – they will then decide its relevance to the case and whether to pass it along to opposing counsel. Remember that your lawyer has your best interests in mind and is being paid to provide you with representation. Thus, although it may seem tedious and burdensome, it is in your best interest to provide your lawyer with all the documents you are being asked for.

Formal Discovery involves interrogatories and requests for the production of documents. Interrogatories are inexpensive ways of gaining information and narrowing down the issues of case. If you do not respond to an interrogatory once it has been served upon you and within the deadline of thirty days, your spouse can obtain a court order to force you to respond. Thus, it is usually best to sit down with your lawyer and answer the questions completely and in a timely manner.

Privileged Information: Several privileges are established by statute. For example, communications between husband and wife, attorney and client, among grand jurors, for state secrets, between psychiatrist and patient, and to any minister, priest or rabbi are privileged. Any party or witness is also afforded protection against self-incrimination under both the Fifth Amendment and Georgia Law.

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