Many couples facing a divorce wonder why the time and expense associated with discovery is necessary. They simply figure that they know what the other spouse’s assets are, because after all, they watched them buy the items in the first place. They mistakenly think they understand the value of all the retirement and bank accounts because they’ve had conversations about them. Many people believe their spouse would not or could not lie or hide any important information – so why go through the trouble at all? The problem is, what you don’t know can (severely) hurt you – which is why the discovery process is so important.
Discovery is the legal process meant to extract information from the opposing party in a lawsuit. Gathering facts early on in litigation may actually help minimize costs in the long run by narrowing the issues that need to be addressed at trial or in settlement negotiations. Discovery involves numerous approaches, including: Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, depositions (both written and oral), physical and mental examinations, Requests for Admission, and others. The most important and most commonly used discovery methods are Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions.
Interrogatories are questions posed to the opposing party. In South Carolina, a party may send written questions to the other party, who is then required to answer the interrogatories under oath, which is meant to increase the likelihood that the information provided will be truthful. If the party who receives the interrogatories refuses to answer, the court can impose sanctions.
Requests for Production of Documents are exactly what they sound like. An attorney makes formal requests that the other party provide copies of specified documents in their possession. If the party refuses to release requested documents, the court can again impose sanctions. It is important to note that at if the party does not have certain documents, he will not be required to obtain them for the requesting party, though he may be required to sign a release to enable the requesting party obtain such documents.
Request for Admissions (sometimes called Requests to Admit) are statements presented to the other party asking that he/she admit or deny the truth of certain matters. Admissions are very powerful and help attorneys narrow down the number of issues that are really in contention between the parties. One important (and unique) aspect of this form of discovery is that if the other party does not answer a request in a timely manner, the request can be deemed admitted.
As mentioned above, discovery, when done properly, can help to uncover hidden assets. Many people may think they know what their spouse owns and yet discovery can still reveal some hidden assets. Unfortunately, it’s also possible that discovery works the other way, revealing that the couple has less money than they thought. Either way, the process has worked. It’s critical that before the divorce proceeds your South Carolina family law attorney understands what is out there so he can properly craft a plan that is right for you.
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