Have you ever wondered how exactly your spouse is paid, or what his or her sole credit card or bank statements would show if you had the chance to view them? The discovery process in a dissolution proceeding has the ability to bring light to many of these common questions. The discovery process begins shortly after the return date has occurred and generally involves gathering documents and information. Discovery in family law cases can take many forms depending on the complexity of the case and the type of case. A majority of divorcing families in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport have a number of assets and liabilities. By engaging in the discovery process, each party can be provided with full transparency regarding the assets and liabilities that make up the marital estate.
Practicing family law attorneys often begin the discovery phase with what is known as a “Request for Production.” This request is sent to the opposing party or his or her counsel and requests particular documents, statements, photos or general information from the other party for a given period of time (generally up to three years from the date the request is filed). Some of the most common documents requested in a Request for Production are paystubs, employment contracts, tax returns, credit card statements, checking and savings statements, statements regarding retirement accounts and documents regarding real estate owned by a party.
Connecticut Practice Book §25-32 relates to mandatory discovery disclosures. This section outlines certain documents, including paystubs and tax returns that each party is automatically entitled to receive from their spouse. It will depend on the individual circumstances of a given case whether or not a §25-32 disclosure will cover of all the necessary documents. In more complex cases, the Request for Production will include the items contained in the mandatory disclosure and will ask for a number of additional items to be disclosed that are tailored to the given case and party.
When drafting the request for production, a client’s input and knowledge regarding the parties’ finances is an important part of tailoring the request. For example, a spouse will generally know whether or not the other party has inherited any money, is a beneficiary of a trust, or has an interest in any estate currently in probate. A Request for Production should be tailored so that the information being sought is applicable to a given party and relevant to the case.
Discovery can also be used to show the breakdown of the marriage. For instance, prior bank statements can show when marital money was spent on an extramarital affair. Additionally, phone records can show when and how often a paramour was reached. All of this information is gathered and then used to craft the general theme of a case.
Completing discovery in any case is an invaluable way for one party to learn more clearly about the marital estate. It can also be useful when determining one party’s income and how compensation is structured. Once a Request for Production is served on the other party or their counsel, that party then automatically has sixty (60) days to respond and/or object to the requests. After this initial round of discovery is complete, a party has a continuing duty to provide updated information to the other party as it becomes available. If one party fails to provide to a Request for Production, a Motion to Compel discovery can be filed with the court. This motion informs the court exactly what has not been provided in response to a request and asks the court to make an order that these items be provided.
At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie, LLC, our attorneys are well versed in the discovery process. Our knowledgeable staff has the ability to utilize the discovery process in a way that is beneficial both economically and strategically for our clients.