Daily I receive calls from clients in Georgia, concerned about the most tedious part of any litigation process; this is the process known as discovery. Discovery is simply the period during litigation in which an attorney is allowed to seek information and answers relevant to the development and presentation of their case. The time limit for this is usually six months after the answer is filed, but this timeline is ambiguous and can be extended.
As a legal consumer, you should be very aware of this process as it tends to be the most expensive part of the litigation process.
The client should also be very involved in how far they wish to pursue this process, especially in domestic matters, which I will discuss in more detail. The process itself is when an opposing attorney sends you a document request, interrogatories, and potentially a request for answers. The process may also involve depositions.
How Does The Litigation Discovery Begin?
Usually, during Divorce litigation or the beginning of litigation, the attorney will send out the standard discovery, which attempts to cover all aspects of the matter. Document requests will be just that, a request for documents ranging from bank statements to evidence intended to use. Which can go back for years, and if found to be relevant, the court will demand cooperation.
Interrogatories are questions asked that demand explanation. These tend to be broad and can echo the documents requested. Requests for answers are simply a demand that you specifically answer direct questions. Depositions are a process in which the opposing attorney can call you and your attorney to their office and ask questions under oath.
What Can Happen During Discovery?
All of these demands from opposing counsel can be extensive, within reason, and are always part of the litigation process. It is also the most frustrating part of the process and the part of the process with which the client should be most concerned. Often the matter becomes bogged down in discovery arguments that involve demands from the other side claiming insufficient responses or lack of cooperation. If this happens, the matter becomes sidetracked on discovery issues, and the court involvement on these issues and the underlying matters cannot resolve.
The problem in a domestic matter such as Divorce or Custody cases is that attorneys often become very vested in this process and when billing, this can get very, very expensive. Sadly, in a domestic matter, the parties usually know the vast majority of the issues needed. They kept joint accounts, credit cards, filed taxes together, lived together, and raised children together. They have all of the information and documentation. Yet, they follow the advice of their attorney. Spending thousands seeking three years of bank records that they have in their possession or are aware of the information in it.
As a legal consumer in a domestic matter, it is essential that you do not blindly follow but ask why do we need all of these documents and information. How much is this going to cost? Sometimes, a party denies the existence of an asset, hiding assets, or misrepresenting facts and due diligence is necessary. More often, it is redundant in a domestic matter.
Always Comply With The Discovery Process
Equally important is that you should comply with discovery when presented as there are significant sanctions if you fail to comply. However, you can seek out a compromise with the other side. You can limit discovery to very necessary and specific items. You can agree to certain items or stipulate to amounts. You never have to blindly send out the form discovery all attorneys save in their systems and spend thousands of dollars going through this process when you know the answer, have the answer or don’t need the answer or document.
Seek The Right Representation For Your Litigation
Domestic litigation is a unique type of litigation where the parties know each other very well. Thus, the client can navigate a lot of the discovery issues and save a great deal of money. Focus on those issues you truly need answers to. This process is always one of the most tedious, expensive, and lengthy litigation aspects, especially if you are paying hourly. Hire representation that you can trust, and never hesitate to ask your attorney about concerns you may have before you hand over any information.