If you have made the difficult decision to end your marriage, the next step is to begin the legal process of divorce. If you have never been through a divorce before, navigating the legal system may seem intimidating. Having an experienced divorce attorney by your side will make the entire process easier, and ensure that your rights are protected; however, you may still want to become familiar with the basic steps your divorce will likely go through. Ideally, you and your spouse can reach an out of court agreement that alleviates the need for protracted, and costly, litigation. If that doesn’t happen, however, your divorce will eventually go through the discovery process. To give you an idea of what to expect when you get to that step in your divorce, a Murfreesboro divorce lawyer explains discovery.
The Divorce Process
In order to put the discovery process in context, it may help to learn so basics about the entire divorce process first. The process of divorce may be initiated by either spouse by filing a Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint includes basic information about the parties and the marriage and asks the court to grant the Petitioner (the spouse who initiated the divorce) a divorce at the end of the process. The Complaint must be formally served on the Respondent who then has a limited amount of time within which to file an official Answer in writing with the court. If the Respondent fails to file an Answer, the Petitioner may ask for a default judgment. If granted, it means the Petitioner will be awarded most of what he/she asked for in the Complaint. If the Respondent does file an Answer, litigation ensues. At any point during the litigation, the parties can reach an agreement that covers all issues in the divorce. If that happens, the agreement is reduced to writing in a Marital Settlement Agreement and submitted to the court for approval. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, mediation may be suggested or ordered by the court. If mediation fails to resolve all contested issues, the divorce will eventually be set for a trial.
What Is Discovery?
The discovery process begins after the Respondent files an Answer with the Court. The purpose of discovery is to the parties to gather relevant information from each other so that they can either resolve all issues or prepare for trial. In a divorce, the discovery process is often used to gather things such as income and asset information, or evidence related to the minor children and each parent’s ability to parent those children. The information exchanged during discovery gives both parties some idea of what will be introduced at a trial if a trial becomes necessary.
There are a number of discovery “tools” that your lawyer might use, including interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions. Interrogatories are written questions sent to the opposing party to answer. The party must answer each question unless they allege a legal basis for not being required to answer it. A request for production of documents, as it sounds, simply asks the opposing party to produce specific documents, such as tax returns. A deposition allows you to question a party or witness prior to trial. The deposition occurs outside of the courtroom, but under oath and in the presence of a court reporter. Your attorney will ask the person being deposed questions that might be asked during a trial. The answers are recorded by the court reporter and let you know how the witness intends to testify at trial. If the witness testifies differently at trial, the deposition can be used to impeach the witness.
The discovery process can take months, even years in a particularly contentious and/or high-value divorce, but is a necessary part of a contested divorce.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you are contemplating divorce in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the divorce process. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.