3 Ways to Successfully Navigate the Mysterious Divorce “Discovery” Process

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During your divorce, you may find the discovery process to be probing and invasive. Entering the process prepared with realistic expectations can be comforting and give you some semblance of control throughout the process. Be aware that the discovery process is not designed to make the turmoil of divorce more painful for you on a personal level. It is intended to allow your attorney to be prepared for whatever may come next—whether that means a trial or settlement negotiations.

The discovery process provides you with proof and evidence in situations where there are contested issues. Discovery allows spouses to request information from one another and additional parties throughout the divorce process. It can also be used to determine assets, income, and debts among other things. These can be critical to help put together a realistic picture for your trial or settlement negotiations.

What do you need to know to make your discovery process as painless as possible? Here are three keys to ensuring that you have a successful discovery process:

Discovery becomes necessary when communication is not clear.

Divorce can cloud communication when emotions are running high. This lack of communication can make the discovery process necessary, allowing attorneys to handle what you and your spouse are unable to communicate to one another.

When headed for trial, the discovery process is particularly imperative to assist the attorney in preparing for various arguments, situations, and accusations that the opposing counsel could present. It allows them to put together a comprehensive picture of all your income, assets, and expenses to see the status of your current finances.

The discovery process can give you a clearer financial picture, allowing you to make wise decisions for the future. Knowing where you and your spouse stand financially allows you to think ahead and get what you are entitled to during your settlement negotiations or trial.

Know what you can ask for during discovery.

The discovery process typically entails four major types of documentation that attorneys can request from your spouse or other parties. Understanding what those documents are can help you and your attorney construct a better case.

  • Interrogatory: This type of document lists questions that require your spouse to answer with facts regarding their interpretation of specific events. Your attorney could use a standard form with routine questions, or they may create unique questions that pertain to your particular situation. Be aware that the number of questions that you can ask during this process is limited.
  • Requests for reproduction: In a request for reproduction, both spouses must provide access to documents pertaining to contested issues in the divorce case. This could include tax returns, income statements, bank statements, receipts, photographs, and more.
  • Request for admission: A request for admission asks you or your spouse to admit or deny facts relating to your divorce. Unlike an interrogatory that allows them to answer open-ended questions, a request for admission is more like a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Deposition: Depositions are more formal than interrogatories, involving a sworn statement transcribed by a court reporter. These scripts count as evidence during your trial, if necessary. This type of situation can also give your attorney an opportunity to see your spouse on the stand before a trial.

Begin to consider what documentation you can provide that would improve your case. What documents could you request from your spouse, or what questions could you ask that would get to the bottom of things? In some situations, you may want to consider requesting photographs that prove adultery, tape recordings, tax returns, or bank statements. Knowing what is available can help you build a better case.

Making a list of the items you would like to request in advance could be helpful in saving your attorney time. The more time you can save your attorney, the more money you can save on your final bill.

You can assist your attorney with discovery.

Attorneys should be willing to allow you to participate in the discovery process, which can mean anything from checking over interrogatories to making a list of useful documents in the request for reproduction. Your assistance can help make the facts clearer to quickly get available information. A clearer idea of the big picture is especially helpful if you and your attorney already know that a trial is imminent.

You should be able to help your attorney pinpoint specific areas that they will need to focus on during a trial or settlement negotiation, if necessary. Items should not be included merely to embarrass or spite your spouse. They should be facts and situations that are critical to the core contested issues in your trial.

Assisting your attorney during the discovery process is another way that you can save them time, and ultimately, save yourself money.

Discovering the Facts

The discovery process can feel incredibly invasive when you are involved in a grueling and emotionally taxing divorce. Providing necessary information when requested allows attorneys to create better cases. They can help you get a clearer picture of your marital financial status, which affects your soon to be single financial status as well.

Preparing adequately for the discovery process can assist you in obtaining all that you are entitled to receive. The discovery process can give you more security for your financial future. Knowing what to expect and how you can offer your own assistance to your attorney gives you an opportunity to save money in the present as well.

The discovery process only has to be as painful as you allow it to be. By entering the process prepared, you can feel more stable, emotionally grounded, and peaceful during this time.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is the host of the “Divorce and Your Money Show” and Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, with offices in Dallas, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.