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Discovery in Family Law Cases

The discovery process is one of the most important parts of many Washington family law cases. The discovery process is the process by which both parties in a family law case obtain information and/or documentation from the other party or third parties. During the process many different types of information may be obtained using several different discovery methods. A family law attorney can help a client develop a discovery plan that properly fits the needs of their case.

One method of discovery is interrogatories directed to the other party. “Interrogatories” is the word we use for questions asked of one party of a dispute. The questions may be simple and the answers may provide only specific facts, or they can be more complicated and include multiple parts. In some counties there are limits on how many Interrogatories may be sent to the other party.

Another method of discovery is requests for production. Requests for production are requests by one party to the other party asking them to produce certain documents. This can include bank statements, biographical information, income information, and occupational information. In some cases, especially in cases where you have a reason not to trust the other party, it is probably best to request documents from a third party (i.e., the bank or the other party’s employer) to reduce the chance that the document has been modified by the other party.

Requests for admission are what they sound like: requests of the other party to admit that certain things are true. This can be helpful in cases where the parties want to reduce the issues that need to be decided by a mediator, arbitrator, or the court.

The last major type of discovery is the subpoena. The subpoena is a document used to request that the other party (or a third party) appear for a deposition, or in the case of a subpoena duces tecum it is a request to ask a third party to produce documents. This can be a very effective means to obtain the information you want, but can be more expensive than the other options.

This may lead readers to wonder what a deposition is. A deposition is a process whereby a person is asked questions under oath in front of a court reporter. The record of the questions and answers is then recorded by the court reporter and can be used during negotiations or during a court hearing or trial. Depositions are more likely to be used in cases that are likely to go to trial, and less likely to be used when the parties are likely to settle without court involvement.

A family law attorney can help you determine what level and what methods of discovery are right for your family law case. A good attorney will do a cost-benefit analysis to help you determine whether the benefit of the discovery outweighs the cost.

If you live in Seattle, or the surrounding area, and you have questions about what type of information you may be able to obtain through the discovery process, or if you have any other family law question, please contact us today.  We have family law attorneys ready to answer any family law questions you may have.