Discovery Issues in Texas Divorce Cases
If there is one aspect of practicing law that a consensus of attorneys will agree is a mental beat-down, it would be the discovery process. Since discovery is a necessary evil, discovery is a tool that attorneys must effectively wield in order to adequately represent their client.
Very often, we have men and women who are attempting to battle through a divorce on their own, and once they are served with discovery requests they come looking for help. That is the smart move. An experienced family law attorney will know exactly what needs to be done and will get your case on track.
Discovery in Texas takes four major forms: Disclosure, Production and Inspection, Interrogatories, and a less used but effective tool is Admissions.
A disclosure request is usually made within the petition by the petitioner at the time it is filed. If it is done this way, you have 50 days to respond to the request. This is separate from your time period from answering “in the cause” which is still 21 days after Monday next. Distinguishing the two is key. A careful reading of the petition will outline the requirements for responding to the disclosure request. If the disclosure request is not included within the petition, but instead received some time later, then the responses to that request will be due 30 days from the date it was received.
A disclosure request follows the statutory requirements found in 194.2. It is essentially a standard request form. The questions “are the questions” and this means that the requesting party cannot significantly deviate from the standard form. However, the standard questions in 194.2 are not all relevant to family law cases and often the requesting party will not include a few of the questions because they may not help either party’s case. Because of this, you will not want to simply download a standard 194.2 form or copy and paste from the statute. You will want to only answer the questions you are actually asked in the request.
Production and Inspection, Interrogatories, and Admissions:
Production and Inspection Requests, Interrogatories, and Admissions follow a different track. These are typically sent after the petition has been filed and once these are received they are due within 30 days.
Production and Inspection requests typically take the form of questions seeking tangible documents and information. However, as our society has become so dependent on electronic information and communication, data stored electronically is incorporated and requested along with tangible items. Even data and information from social media sites, such as Facebook, are discoverable.
Interrogatories take the form of questions relating to the case in general. The requesting party is seeking specific information about your case, the legal theories, any defenses, and other things specifically relatable to the case itself. The opposing party is limited to 25 questions. This is key and you will have to pay careful attention because opposing counsels typically try to be sneaky and add little extras in the form of subquestions and subparts to questions that allow them to get an extra interrogatory questions in that they should not be able to do.
Admissions should typically be answered in a “yes” or “no” format. Often they are drafted to make you want to say more than that. That is the point. They are trying to either get you to say “yes” to something you shouldn’t or vice-versa, or they want you to engage and say something additional. However, if you do that, you are giving them a free interrogatory question they wouldn’t normally get. So keep your answer to “yes” and “no” only.