The varying proceedings of a California divorce can be confusing for anyone who is not familiar with them. The discovery process is just one aspect of the state’s different divorce procedures and occurs before a case goes to court. It allows both spouses to gather information from themselves and each other that they believe would be helpful to their case. The discovery process is an imperative part of any divorce, especially if one spouse has to request certain information from the other.
How Does Divorce Work in California?
In order to understand the discovery process, it helps to know how divorces work in California. Whether it was you or your spouse who filed for divorce, you both will have many legal matters to address. Generally, a divorce follows these steps:
- One Spouse Files for Divorce
- The Other Spouse Is Served
- The Discovery Process Occurs
- Settlements Are Reached on Important Matters
- Judge Reviews Terms and Divorce Is Finalized
What Is the Discovery Process in a Divorce?
To build a case that supports your demands, you and your legal counsel will have to gather evidence that backs your claims. This is commonly done through what is known as the “discovery process.” The discovery process occurs during the pretrial phases of a divorce and gives spouses the opportunity to find and request important information.
After one spouse serves the other a copy of the divorce papers, the responding spouse has 30 days to answer. During these 30 days is when the discovery process takes place. The discovery process not only gives spouses time to collect information that backs their case, but it also gives them the opportunity to request information that one spouse may be trying to withhold. Because the discovery process is a legal procedure within your divorce, your spouse is mandated to respond to your request.
Is the Discovery Process Always Necessary?
While the discovery process offers benefits to both spouses, it is not always required. However, this does not necessarily mean that it isn’t needed. The discovery process gives spouses the chance to gather certain information that they would not be able to otherwise. By taking advantage of the discovery process with the help of your lawyer, you can collect evidence and build a case that supports your requests during your divorce.
What Can Happen During the Discovery Process?
If you decide to use the discovery process, there are a few different “formal discovery” requests that you can send or receive. These include:
- Interrogatories: Interrogatories are general questions that one spouse may need answered to better build their case or plan their future. These can be sent using a form with specific questions that are pre-written or you can create custom questions, which are seen as a “special” interrogatory.
- Requests of Admission: Requests of admission are different than general interrogatories because they ask one party to admit to or deny certain pieces of information. These are often used to settle issues outside of court or to better form a case around a specific divorce issue.
- Requests to Provide Documents: This kind of discovery is relatively simple and requests that one spouse provides specific documents. These could include tax receipts, bank statements, pay stubs, and more.
- Subpoenas: Subpoenas are less common than the other formal discovery methods. They are legal orders that require one spouse to appear in court, usually with specific information.
- Depositions: Depositions require one party to answer questions under oath with a legal official. These proceedings usually occur outside of court and are recorded so that they can be transcribed later. Depositions be used by one spouse or a prosecution as evidence.
What Is Informal Discovery in California?
Informal discovery is a less strict method of obtaining information during a divorce. With informal discovery, important information is shared voluntarily between spouses. This can help to make the divorce process much less contentious and more cost-efficient. Informal discovery can occur when two spouses agree to discuss what information they both need and share it amicably.
What Is a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure in a California Divorce?
Because California follows community property laws, the court is required to separate all marital assets as equally as possible. This requires both spouses to submit what is known as a “Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure.” In this document, both spouses must detail information that identifies and values all of their marital property. Community property can include cars, the family home, real estate, and even debts that were collected while the couple was married.
Do You Need an Attorney to Go Through the Discovery Process?
In most cases, you will need some form of legal counsel to go through a contested divorce. However, if you are involved in the discovery process of a divorce, hiring an experienced family lawyer is a necessity. Your lawyer can guide you through sending discovery requests and responding to them. They can also aid in organizing your evidence and building your case so that you’re prepared for your upcoming trial.
Do You Have to Answer Your Spouse’s Discovery Request?
You are legally required to respond to all requests that are sent to you during the discovery process. If you do not respond, the court can enforce the request and you may receive legal penalties for ignoring it. You may also potentially lose certain benefits in your divorce case. Consequences for ignoring discovery requests can include fines or being held in contempt of court.
Passionate Pasadena Divorce Representation
From responding to discovery requests to dealing with the complex emotions that come with your situation, it can be troublesome to go through a divorce alone. At Khalaf Law Group, we know that the divorce process is challenging. Our goal is to provide legal aid that helps to make going through a divorce as easy as it can be. Our comprehensive insight and experience in family law set us apart. If you’re searching for a divorce lawyer that’s ready to prioritize your case, contact Khalaf Law Group today.