Divorce and the Discovery Process: Five Areas of Focus

During a Washington State Divorce a divorcing spouse will have the ability to ask questions (through interrogatories or depositions), request documents, and ask for admissions from the other party (and third parties); this process is called the discovery process.  Here are five areas that divorcing people should focus their attention on during the discovery process.

  1. Information Regarding the Income Earning Abilities of the Other Party. This information is important to obtain whether the other party is the higher-earning spouse or the lesser-earning spouse.  The other party’s ability to earn will be a major factor when the court determines whether or not one party should have to pay spousal maintenance (more commonly known as alimony).  The other party’s ability to earn will also impact how much child support will be paid.  It can also be a factor for the court’s consideration if the court is tasked with determining a fair and equitable division of the parties’ assets and debts.  Resumes should be requested of the other party.  Earning statements and any information regarding why a person cannot earn to their previous ability (if applicable) should also be requested.  It will also usually be in your best interest to request five or more years of tax returns.
  2. Information Regarding the Other Party’s Assets. Interrogatories should ask the other party for information about their assets.  The other party should have to conclusively state what assets they have and their approximate value.  Requests for Production should request information from bank accounts, retirement accounts, and documents related to other assets.
  3. Information Regarding the Other Party’s Debts. In many cases information about the other party’s debts are just as important as information about their assets.  It is important that a divorcing person asks their spouse questions that require that spouse to clearly state all of their debts and the required minimum payments on each debt.  This can help the divorcing person refute claims made by the other party about that party’s ability (or inability) to afford their lifestyle, spousal maintenance, or childcare expenses (among many other things) due to their debt.
  4. Information Regarding the Other Party’s Parenting. If one party’s interrogatories simply ask the other party to provide information regarding that party’s parenting skills, they are likely to provide self-serving and favorable responses.  Other questions that can be more helpful.  One parent can ask the other parent about the requesting parent’s parenting strengths and weaknesses.  This will help that parent determine what issues that parent is likely to bring up should the case go before the court or a mediator or arbitrator, and also give that parent an idea of what parenting strengths they can tell the court about without the likelihood that it will be challenged by the other party.
  5. Information from Financial Institutions Directly. In some cases, asking the other party about their finances and asking them to provide bank statements will not be enough.  If a divorcing person has had limited (or no) access to the other party’s financial and retirement accounts that person may want to serve a subpoena on the institutions holding the other party’s accounts directly.  This is a good way to ensure the veracity of any financial information you receive from the other party.

This is not an exhaustive list.  Instead, it is a starting point for discussions with a family law attorney.  It is important that individuals target the areas that are the most contentious and/or most important to their case.  Discovery can help people gather the evidence they will need to put their best case forward.

If you would like to speak with a Seattle family law attorney, please contact us today.

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