Special interrogatories for a California divorce case are the topic of this blog post.
Any party in California to a divorce or any other proceeding that is filed under the California Family Code is authorized to use the exact same discovery requests and procedures that can be used in any other civil litigation as Family Code section 210 states that the same rules and procedures are applicable unless another statute or rule has been adopted by the California Judicial Council.
I have worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995. I have also worked on hundreds of divorces with a lot of those divorces being contested divorces. My personal recommendation for anyone involved in a divorce that has any chance of becoming contested is that you should definitely use special interrogatories as I have learned that the Form Interrogatories-Family Law created by the California Judicial Council do not cover everything.
If there are issues and contentions in your case such as the issue of child custody and visitation, disputes over the date of separation or requests for attorney’s fees and spousal support the fact of the matter is those topics are not very well covered by the official Judicial Council Form Interrogatories-Family Law even though they are very detailed on property contentions, assets and debts as well as income.
If you use special interrogatories correctly in your divorce case to focus in on one or more of the issues that I mentioned in the last paragraph you will find that they can result in winning your case at trial or in appropriate situations reaching a mutually amicable settlement before trial.
Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.010, et seq are the specific statutes in California that govern special interrogatories.
Code of Civil Procedure § 2030.010 states that, “(a) Any party may obtain discovery within the scope delimited by Chapters 2 (commencing with Section 2017.010) and 3 (commencing with Section 2017.710), and subject to the restrictions set forth in Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 2019.010), by propounding to any other party to the action written interrogatories to be answered under oath. (b) An interrogatory may relate to whether another party is making a certain contention, or to the facts, witnesses, and writings on which a contention is based. An interrogatory is not objectionable because an answer to it involves an opinion or contention that relates to fact or the application of law to fact, or would be based on information obtained or legal theories developed in anticipation of litigation or in preparation for trial.”
I want to point out that California law allows the respondent in a divorce or other family law case to propound special interrogatories at any time to the petitioner. See Code of Civil Procedure § 2030.020(a).
However the petitioner may not propound any interrogatories, either form or special interrogatories on the respondent until at least ten (10) days have passed since service of the summons on the respondent, or their general appearance, whichever occurs first. See Code of Civil Procedure § 2030.020(b).
The very important and specific statutory restrictions that you must follow when drafting any special interrogatories in California will now be discussed.
The first and in my opinion the most important restriction that you must be aware of when drafting special interrogatories is the numerical limit of thirty five (35) on the number of special interrogatories.
However California law also states that if a supporting declaration stating that any additional interrogatories are warranted due to the complexity of the case and other certain factors is attached, any party may propound more additional special interrogatories. See Code of Civil Procedure §§ 2030.030 and 2030.050.
The second important restriction on special interrogatories are the restrictions on format and content. For example in California no specially prepared interrogatory can contain subparts, or a compound, conjunctive or disjunctive question. See Code of Civil Procedure § 2030.060. This means that a special interrogatory cannot contain part a, b, c, etc., nor can it contain a question with more than one part, and it cannot contain the word “and” which is conjunctive, it also cannot contain the word “or” which is disjunctive. Although I have seen a lot of special interrogatories that did violate these format rules I will also warn you that using that type of format can expose you to the risk of the responding party interposing objections to the interrogatories on those grounds which can result in you having to expend considerable time and expense in going to court
It is undeniably true that depositions are an important litigation tool they also have certain limitation including the fact that you cannot ask someone in a deposition to state all facts, list all witnesses and identify all documents that support or pertain to any particular contention in that party's pleadings, although that information is discoverable when sought by written interrogatory. Rifkind v. Superior Court (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1255, 1257 (emphasis added).
And the law is well settled in California that the scope of discovery is very broad. Any doubts will be applied liberally in favor of discovery.
These rules are applied liberally in favor of discovery. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 785, 790, and (contrary to popular belief), fishing expeditions are permissible in some cases. Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 56 Cal.2d 355, 385, (“although fishing may be improper or abused in some cases, that "is not of itself an indictment of the fishing expedition per se”.)
As I sincerely hope I have emphasized in this blog post, the proper use of special interrogatories in a divorce case in California is an excellent tool for (1) evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case; (2) preparing for trial, and (3) facilitating settlement.
Special interrogatories are most useful in assisting you in discovering the specific facts, witnesses and documents that support the opposing party’s claims or defenses.
Sample special interrogatories for a California divorce case for sale.
Attorneys or parties in California that would like to view a portion of sample special interrogatories which are 14 pages and includes brief instructions, 40 sample interrogatories, a sample declaration for additional discovery and proof of service by mail sold by the author can use the link shown below.
Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a California divorce litigation document package containing over 45 sample documents including the sample special interrogatories sold above by the author can use the link shown below.
The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 300 sample legal documents for sale.
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Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.
The materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.