By David L. Duff of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in Family Law on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.
By: David L. Duff, Esquire
In any domestic relations proceeding, from divorce to custody to support modification, the process whereby each side obtains evidence and factual information from the other, is known as “discovery”. Obviously, appropriate and thorough discovery is crucial to the successful prosecution of your claim, or to the successful defense of the other side’s claim. It is also the single most despised – and expensive – aspect of any domestic relations action.
Discovery between two litigants will most often take the form of written questions, known as Interrogatories, and a Request for Production of Documents. Clients intensely dislike, and are greatly irritated by, having to answer questions, or produce documents, that are often quite personal in nature, or seemingly utterly irrelevant to the matter actually in dispute. I often hear complaints that the opposing party’s discovery requests are “silly”, “don’t have anything to do with what we are fighting over”, “are an invasion of my privacy”, or are “none of his/her damn business”.
All of these complaints may be absolutely true; however, Virginia’s rules concerning the permissible scope of what may be requested in discovery is extremely broad, and virtually all-encompassing. You can either respond to the discovery requests that you find offensive, or pay your attorney to file written objections to the same; then file a written response to the opposing party’s inevitable Motion to overrule those objections; then appear in court and argue to a judge why the objections are valid and should be sustained. After approximately 6 weeks, and several thousand dollars in attorney’s fees later, the most likely outcome is that you are ordered to respond fully to those offensive discovery requests – and, you may very well have the added pleasure of having to pay a portion of the other side’s attorney’s fees.
In view of the foregoing, clients involved in any form of domestic relations litigation can do themselves a favor, and save literally thousands of dollars in fees to their attorneys, by doing the following when dealing with discovery:
1. Don’t waste time complaining to your lawyer. There is little-to-nothing that he/she can do about it;
2. When answering Interrogatories, respond to the entire question, including all sub-parts. The more thorough you are in your draft answers, the less time that needs to be devoted by your attorney, which equates to lower fees.
3. Keep all of your financial records, including bank and credit card statements, as well as monthly utility bills. Do not throw away anything that might even smell important;
4. When producing copies of records and other documents, do not write comments on them. This only adds to your attorney’s time in having to redact whatever you have written before producing copies to the opposing side;
5. Produce two (2) copies of all documents to your attorney – one to be retained in your file for future reference, and one to be given to the other side as part of your discovery response; and
6. Don’t waste time (and money) complaining.