Steps Can You Expect to Follow in a Divorce Lawsuit (Step 3: Discovery)
In a Texas divorce case, information is key to getting a fair settlement or court ruling. What you know can be used by your Texas divorce attorney to negotiate a fair settlement or pursue relief in court.
But what happens if you or your spouse have questions about crucial details of the divorce that you don’t have answers to? This is where discovery, the third step of a Texas divorce, comes in.What Is Discovery?
Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, discovery refers to the process in which both parties exchange information with one another. In the context of a divorce, the purpose of discovery is to give everyone involved the same information to help them figure out the size of the community estate, as well as each other’s positions. It’s a way to create transparency in the divorce process, ensuring settlements are reached fairly, with each party having the peace of mind knowing they had enough information to settle in confidence.
Depending on the type of divorce discovery ordered by the court, there might be specific time periods in your proceedings that allow discovery. Your Texas divorce attorney will be in the best position to discuss with you the types of discovery requests that can be made, how soon these requests can be sent to your spouse, and how to respond to discovery requests in return.Why Is Divorce Discovery Necessary?
Despite what you may have seen in courtroom dramas and movies, divorce cases handled by a qualified Texas divorce attorney rarely have any surprises on the day of the trial. It’s very unlikely for a surprise witness or key piece evidence to show up at the final trial. And if such information or persons were to even appear in court, you must prove extenuating circumstances to justify this development.
In other words, you must be able to prove that the evidence had just come into your possession and that you had no knowledge it existed before then. But even with proof, the judge will still carefully weigh the probative value of the evidence against the prejudicial effect it will have on the other party. Family court judges in Texas frown on spouses who intentionally withhold evidence to catch the other spouse off-guard.
The time and place for all of that is the discovery phase of a divorce.
In many ways, discovery is where cases are won and lost, which makes it all the more important to have a skilled divorce attorney at your side—someone who can ensure all your bases are covered. For example, if the other party has a video of you making verbal threats against your spouse that isn’t revealed through discovery, you can bet this will cripple your case at trial.
A Texas divorce attorney also knows the rules of discovery; failure to follow these rules may result in sanctions from the Court that will cripple, or worse, kill your case entirely.What Things Can Be “Discovered”?
Admittedly, the discovery stage of a Texas divorce can be uncomfortable for either party, what with both sides conducting a full and often invasive inquiry on almost everything that happened in each other’s life during the marriage. Nothing is off-limits as everything can be considered relevant to the divorce.
Discoverable information can involve your:
- Finances, including tax returns, debt, credit, bank statements, insurance policies, and retirement accounts
- Communication, including text messages, social media accounts, instant messenger records, and phone records
- Medical history, including your history of mental issues, history of substance abuse, health, or any condition or issue that will affect your ability to care for your children
- Sexual behavior, including your sexual preferences, affairs, and habits
- Parenting skills, or supposed lack thereof
- Relationships with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and employers
The more contentious the divorce is, the more embarrassing and traumatizing discovery can be.
If you would like to know about this step of a Texas divorce, get in touch with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation about your case.