Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you are already involved in a family court matter in Texas or considering whether to be involved in a family court matter in Texas.
Divorce and/or child custody disputes in the Lone Star State have many different stages. Though all stages of family court are important, the discovery phase is when you have the opportunity to gather information related to your spouse’s assets, liabilities, indiscretions, potential detrimental habits, etc.
All of this information is valuable in assisting the Court, as well as you, in determining the “best interest of the child” and/or the amount of financial assistance one spouse may be required to pay the other.
Though discovery is not required in Texas family law, it is encouraged to prevent unnecessary surprise by one of the parties. So, let’s take a look at the family court discovery process in Texas.
What Is Discovery?
The discovery process is broken up into two types of discovery – written discovery and deposition. Written discovery predominantly entails:
- Requests for Disclosures, i.e. general questions which the parties answer by providing basic information about their case;
- Interrogatories, i.e. questions by which a party is able to gather information in response to specific questions relevant to the case;
- Requests for Production, i.e. specific requests for documents; and
- Requests for Admissions, i.e. one party requests the other party to admit certain facts so as to expedite the proceedings.
Important note, in the event you decide to proceed pro se or without an attorney, you will be required to sign your discovery requests in order to signify that you are only requesting relevant information and are not engaged in a fishing expedition as well as sign your discovery responses signifying that the information is complete and accurate and that you will supplement any other information as it becomes available.
After written discovery, depositions may be taken to gather further information though they are not required unless requested.
Will I Be Required To Give A Deposition In My Texas Family Law Case?
Depositions are a part of the discovery process and may be utilized as needed; however, they are not required. In the event of a contested divorce or a heated child custody dispute, it is likely that both parties will “notice” depositions in order to have the ability to question the adverse party regarding specific information not suited for interrogatories or requests for production.
Depositions are sworn testimony given under oath similar to being on a witness stand in a court room. For example, let’s say that you are the one being deposed. Present at a deposition will be you, your attorney if you have retained an attorney, the other party’s attorney if they have retained an attorney, and a court reporter to record and eventually transcribe all of the testimony provided. The other party is entitled to be present at the deposition if they so choose.
The deposition process is similar to questioning at trial. The attorney taking the deposition will ask you initial background questions followed by questions relating the family law matter. After the initial questions, your attorney will have the opportunity to ask questions likely in an attempt to have you clarify your answers. It is important to tell the truth during your deposition because if any of your answers at your deposition are different than what you say in a courtroom, you will be required to explain why your answers do not match.
Depositions are not meant to be a time when you place your former spouse “under fire” and should only be used to gather information to allow you to better present your case. Side not, generally after depositions, family law matters settle in mediation; however, that is a topic for another article.
What Is The Timeline for Discovery?
One important thing to note is with regard to Requests for Admission which, if not answered within 30 days of receipt, are deemed admitted. Normally, requests for admissions contain questions which would be detrimental to your case if admitted.
For example, if a party serves a request to admit stating, “Admit that you have no evidence to support your claim,’ or “Admit that you cheated on your spouse on twenty different occasions,” and you fail to respond to those requests in 30 days – they requests will be deemed admitted and likely harm your case despite their truthfulness.
Your Texas Family Lawyers
The discovery process in family court proceedings add more complexity to an already trying time; however, it is an important step that when utilized appropriately will provide great value to your case. Please don’t hesitate to call us if we have any questions regarding Texas Family Law and we wish you the best during this difficult time.