Discovery is a general term used to describe the process of evidence collection in a lawsuit. In most family law cases the discovery process plays a vital role in ensuring that both parties have adequate information to make informed decisions. While discovery may seem like an enormous, labor-intensive task, it is usually a critical component that must be done to ensure that all relevant information is taken into consideration.
Discovery Methods in Family Law Cases
The discovery process is governed by Rule 26 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. Depending on the circumstances of your case and the specific information sought, discovery may take the form of a variety of techniques. The most commonly used techniques include depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, or requests to enter upon land or other property.
Discovery techniques used generally focus on the most efficient method of obtaining relevant information on the issues. In divorce the most commonly used discovery tool is interrogatories and requests for production of documents. This particular discovery technique is used to request testimony, financial information, records and other documentation. Once both parties are armed with pertinent information about the assets and liabilities involved it increases their ability to settle issues in dispute without the need for a costly trial.
Formal vs. Informal Discovery
In addition to the different discovery methods that can be employed, discovery can be either formal or informal. Formal discovery occurs when there is a pending lawsuit and discovery is required as part of that court process. Informal discovery happens when parties voluntarily agree to exchange information that each side needs. Parties often agree to voluntarily exchange information because it allows each to gain information necessary to make decisions that can ultimately lead to an amicable resolution.
Failure to Comply with Discovery Requests
Failure to appropriately respond to discovery requests can result in serious implications. Unless the information sought is privileged, it is expected that a party will respond to a discovery request in a timely manner. If the court determines that a party has willfully not disclosed requested information, or if incorrect information is purposely provided, a Judge may issue sanctions. Sanctions may include an award of attorney fees to the other party who is seeking the information. Additionally, failing to participate in the discovery process, or providing false information can jeopardize the outcome of your case.
Discovery at times can seem overwhelming, however, it is a critical element of family law cases pertaining to equitable distribution, child support, child custody, and spousal support. Participating in the discovery process allows you to properly prepare your case for settlement negotiations or trial in the event you are not able to reach an agreement. By cooperating with your attorney in the discovery process, and voluntarily providing information and documents needed, your attorney can begin the process of determining what information needs to be requested from the opposing side while ensuring nothing is overlooked which will directly affect the outcome of your case.
At Hopper Cummings, our lawyers understand that each family law case requires detailed investigation and careful planning to ensure a fair outcome is achieved. We are experienced in all facets of family law and can help ensure that your financial interests are protected. Our knowledge and insight can help you overcome obstacles in your case while working toward a successful and lasting resolution. We are skilled negotiators and creative problem solvers, and when compromise cannot be reached, we are experienced trial lawyers. For a confidential consultation regarding a divorce and property settlement, child custody, or child support matter contact us at 919-533-4115, or complete our online form.
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