When Discovery Requests Go Too Far
What Is Discovery in a Divorce?
Discovery is an essential part of most family law cases. This process comprises many parts. Discovery can be conducted in writing, by way of interrogatories (i.e. questions) or requests for documents, or it could be done in person, by way of depositions.
Regardless of the manner, discovery requests can be quite broad. A litigant may ask any question or request any document that is reasonably designed to lead to evidence that is admissible at trial.
What Is Unreasonable in the Divorce Discovery Process?
- Harassment – Discovery questions may not be used to harass or embarrass one of the parties. Like any legal process, however, some unscrupulous lawyers or parties may try to use discovery for just that purpose.
- Unnecessarily Duplicative – Other unreasonable requests may be requests that are "unnecessarily duplicative." This means that the request has asked for information that has already been produced.
- Unduly Burdensome – Another reason is that the request is "unduly burdensome" or expensive. This often occurs when a spouse asks for years and years of medical records or bank records without any legitimate reason for the request. While these documents may sometimes be relevant, asking for 20 years of bank records in a short marriage may be not worth the effort and expense.
Objections During the Discovery Process
If you receive discovery requests that ask for unreasonably intrusive information, are unnecessarily duplicative, or are unduly burdensome, then there may be ways to deal with the question and avoid answering them.
An objection may be raised to any question you or your attorney does not believe is asked in good faith to gather admissible evidence.
If the other side wishes to force you to provide the information, then he or she may file a motion to compel discovery. You and your spouse will appear before a judge who will decide whether or not you must produce the information or documents requested.
In the alternative, in cases involving voluminous and expensive record requests, the judge may order that the requesting party may only have the documents if he or she is willing to bear the cost of having them produced. At this motion, one or both sides may request attorney’s fees. It is the possibility of an award of attorney’s fees that often acts as a deterrent preventing parties from asking for unreasonably intrusive information or objecting to every request, even if it is reasonable.
A judge has broad discretion in enforcing discovery rules.
If you have questions about the discovery process, at (732) 529-6937. We have experience helping clients conduct discovery and protect themselves from invasive requests.