In my prior entry I gave an overview of the requirements for filing a divorce in Georgia and some of the process, but it is in the process or litigation in which you will become the most frustrated. While your attorney prepares for a hearing there is a period of what is called discovery. This simply means that according to the rules of procedure each attorney has the right to seek documentation, written responses to questions and depose witnesses. This process can go on for six months after the answer is filed and the opposing party may ask to extend this with cause, in essence litigation can continue for some time while the other side goes on a “witch hunt” and the lawyers enter into a battle of procedure, which does very little to further resolution. This system works well when two businesses are fighting over contracts; however, when two people with children are seeking resolution it is sometimes a much abused process. The rules are construed very liberally and the court allows attorneys great leeway in the gathering of information in preparation for trial. This means that a hostile spouse can stretch a matter out for some time for no other reason than revenge and the receiving spouse will be forced to spend excessive funds dealing with these procedural battles. In the end, there is usually very little to be gained from this tactic except huge legal fees. This is something the legal consumer should be very much aware of as you proceed with your litigation. Most attorneys still bill hourly and guess where they make most of their money- through the discovery process. As stated, in a domestic matter there are several issues that always must be explored, usually dealing with income. The courts provide that certain documents must be submitted relating to this issue, and extensive discovery is not usually warranted. What many attorneys do is submit supplemental discovery seeking additional information, this is when you should be an active participant in your litigation. Be certain that the information sought is relevant and focused on your particular matter.
Many times attorneys send out the standard discovery request that has dozens of questions and requests for documents that have no relevance to the matter at hand. What does this mean? It means that their office is going to spend hours dealing with irrelevant discovery and discovery issues, and guess who pays for those hours? If your divorce involves a family business, yes, you will spend a great deal of money in discovery seeking out the valuation of that business, if your divorce is one with two people receiving paychecks and there are transparent assets and no issues of conscience, then no your divorce does not require extensive discovery and the bills that will come with this process. In the end, make sure the bills you receive are directly related to the complications of your divorce, beware of billable hours and be involved in your litigation. Ask, your attorney why he is doing something because if you don’t you will receive the hourly invoice and there is no better way of increasing those invoices than the discovery process.