Process of Discovery During New Jersey Divorce Proceedings
Divorces go through several phases during the litigation process. The process begins when one party files for divorce and serves the other party with the papers. Once the litigation has begun, things can move quickly; however, some parts of the divorce process take longer than others.
What Is the Process of Discovery?
The ultimate goal of the divorce is a split that is equitably fair to both sides. The hope is that everyone can move forward peacefully once the divorce is finalized.
The one phase of divorce proceedings in New Jersey that can take the longest time to complete is the process of discovery. The discovery process evaluates all of the marital assets. The goal of discovery is to achieve a division of assets that fairly compensates both parties in the divorce action. Divorce case discovery can prove to be expensive as experts are occasionally needed. Any attempt to conceal assets can result in criminal charges.
Discovery commences immediately upon the service of papers and should be completed within 90 to 120 days. Depending on the extent of the discovery process, the courts may extend the deadlines of the various components. Every divorce is different, and the discovery can be easily completed with the initial statements, or it may go through lengthy litigation. Your divorce attorney can assist you with the various discovery actions. Discovery actions can include:
- Case Information Statements
- Notice to Produce
- Requests for Admissions
- Physical or Mental Health Examinations
Case Information Statements
Case Information Statements are detailed questionnaires that both parties are required to complete. In many cases, this will provide enough information to settle the divorce. This detailed accounting includes:
- Employers, complete with addresses and phone numbers.
- Income from all sources.
- Expenses. Both personal and shared expenses must be listed.
- Assets and when they were acquired. There are different standards for those assets acquired prior to your marriage. Those assets will not be split. Inheritance money cannot be split.
- Liabilities. List all creditors complete with contact information.
Charges of tax evasion against one or both parties are possible if the courts discover attempts to hide assets by either party. Attempts to hide assets can also bring other charges such as contempt of court. You need to be completely transparent when filling out your Case Information Statement. The more complete the Case Information Statement is, the less likely you will have to go through many of the other processes.
Interrogatories are a list of questions sent to the other party. The recipient is legally required to answer all questions as completely as possible. Interrogatories may involve more than financial information. They may include any factors that apply to your divorce. When answering Interrogatories, you need to supply information as completely as possible.
Notice to Produce
A Notice to Produce comes from the courts. It is an official demand for documentation that supports the amounts claimed for income, assets, expenses, or liabilities. In many cases, this documentation will require the use of experts. Expert reporting can be costly. The fees for the experts are the responsibility of the divorcing parties. These are costs that are often shared by both sides. Notice to Produce will have court-set deadlines for submission. You must always meet those deadlines or risk penalties such as contempt of court charges.
Requests for Admissions
You must answer Requests for Admissions within 30 days of receipt. These requests will come from the courts during the litigation of a divorce case. They will require your response to detailed questions regarding specific events or expenditures. You must answer all Requests for Admissions as honestly and completely as possible. If you need help responding to admissions requests, contact your divorce attorney for guidance.
Physical or Mental Examinations
During divorce proceedings, it is not uncommon for the courts or the opposing party to request physical or mental examinations. These are often used in divorce cases where there are child custody issues or accusations of adultery. These requests are most frequently for psychological evaluations. If the grounds for divorce involve accusations of domestic violence, physical or mental cruelty, or allegations of mental deficiency, there will be a request for mental or physical examinations of the divorcing parties. Allegations of child abuse may require physical or mental examination of the children in cases involving custody issues. The provider of these services will be assigned by the courts. You will not be able to use your personal physician or mental health professional.
The court may issue subpoenas commanding people to appear before the court. Subpoenas can require physical testimony and may ask you to produce documentation. A subpoena is a legal instrument, and failure to respond at the date and time indicated can result in contempt of court charges. If you receive a subpoena for your physical presence or delivery of documentation, you will want to notify your attorney. Your attorney should be present for all court appearances to protect your best interests.
A deposition is sworn testimony that is given outside of the courtroom setting. They are usually done in an attorney’s office. Deposition fees are paid by the party requesting the deposition. Depositions are used for a variety of reasons, including:
- Supporting the settlement process during divorce proceedings.
- Helping an attorney determine the credibility of a potential witness.
- Determining whether a potential witness’ testimony is necessary.
- Learning what a witness will testify to in order to avoid surprises.
- Preserving the testimony of a witness who is unavailable to testify during a trial.
Depositions are only used in more complex divorce proceedings. During a deposition, attorneys from both sides are present, and spouses have the right to attend. During the questioning, your attorney can object when necessary. Once the deposition is completed, the questions and answers are transcribed for presentations to the court. If you make a mistake during a deposition, it can tarnish your credibility as a witness.
If you are called for a deposition, you should prepare for it in advance with the help of your divorce attorney. Their experience will help make the deposition process less intimidating.
New Jersey divorce cases are usually completed within a year. In more complicated cases, however, this process can take far longer. Divorces can be emotionally and financially taxing on both of the divorcing parties as well as the children. While it is possible to represent yourself in court for a divorce case, it is not recommended as you never know what the courts may require during the process. It is important to keep in mind that every divorce is different. Even if your situation seems similar to that of someone you may know, there will be different requirements for each divorce litigation.
At the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco, our team is ready to answer any questions you have about the process of discovery and help you with your divorce case. If you need divorce representation in Hackensack, New Jersey, contact us online today or by phone at (201) 343-0078.