Using discovery in a divorce in California is the topic of this blog post.
If you are a party to any divorce or other family law proceeding in California you can utilize the same discovery procedures as are used in California litigation as the same rules and procedures are applicable unless another statute or rule has been adopted by the California Judicial Council pursuant to Family Code section 210.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of utilizing discovery effectively in divorce and other family law litigation in California. It can mean the difference between prevailing at the trial or not. If you do not utilize discovery effectively it can result in a case which could have been won at trial, or the opportunity for a reasonable settlement reached before trial being lost.
In working in divorce and other family law litigation in California since 1995 I have found that the following discovery procedures can be very cost effective.
You should always serve the official form interrogatories that are designed for divorce, legal separation and nullity cases in California. These form interrogatories are available using Judicial Council Form FL-145. Click here: www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl145.pdf
I have found these form interrogatories to be very useful because the questions are specifically tailored to the issues involved in a typical case. For instance a party may ask the other party to provide the last three (3) years tax returns, and also to complete a schedule of assets and debts on Judicial Council Form FL-142, click here: www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl142.pdf if that form is attached to the form interrogatories.
I have also found that in many cases that serving special interrogatories is a good as you can use these to request the other party to state all facts, identify all persons having knowledge of the facts, and all documents in support of the facts which support the other party’s requests or contentions made in that party’s petition or response.
Also very useful in long term marriages and marriages in which you know there is, or may potentially be, quite a few substantial community assets and/or debts are requests for production of documents as well as requests for inspection of documents and other tangible things such as obtaining bank and financial records and other documents that are pertinent to the divorce proceeding.
You can also demand that the other party allow you to inspect and to photograph, test, or sample any tangible things that are in the possession, custody, or control of the party on whom the demand is made as well as demand that any other party produce and permit the party making the demand, or someone acting on that party's behalf, to inspect, copy, test, or sample electronically stored information in the possession, custody, or control of the party on whom demand is made.
This is very useful if you believe that the other party may be hiding assets as you can demand to inspect their computer, or other electronically stored information. This could be extremely valuable as computer records may show certain websites that were visited such as bank websites for hidden accounts, or e-mails to banks or other parties which have information on where hidden assets are located. And very often people will keep a spreadsheet or other list of their assets on their computer thinking that their spouse will never find it. This is particularly true with high income individuals.
Finally requests for admission are also useful in appropriate cases as you can request the other party to admit or deny certain pertinent facts, and/or admit that certain attached documents are genuine.
The California courts have ruled in numerous published cases that the scope of discovery in California litigation is very broad and that any doubts are applied liberally in favor of discovery.
The proper use of discovery is a vital tool for (1) evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case; (2) preparing for trial, and (3) facilitating settlement. This is particularly so in a divorce case involving disputed issues such as community property and/or debts.
If possible you should use form and special interrogatories, request for admissions, and requests for production and inspection of documents and other tangible things so that the facts, witnesses and documents that support the opposing party’s claims or defenses can be ascertained, deposed and reviewed, and getting certain admissions or denials of issues relevant to the divorce on record before the trial.
Attorneys or parties who wish to view a portion of sample request for production of documents specifically designed for use in divorce cases with 36 separate categories of document requests for sale by the author can use the link shown below.
Attorneys or parties in California who would like more information on a sample divorce document collection containing over 45 documents including a sample request for production of documents specifically designed for use in divorce cases with 36 separate categories of document request sold 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. For licensed attorneys and law firms that need assistance with any California or Federal litigation matters, Mr. Burman is available on a freelance basis. Mr. Burman may be contacted by e-mail at DivParalgl@yahoo.com for more information. He accepts payments through PayPal which means that you can pay using most credit or debit cards.
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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.