Family Law Discovery in Texas
Discovery consists of several sections, Requests for Production, Requests for Interrogatories, Requests for Disclosure, Requests for Admissions and Depositions.
A request for production usually consists of asking for documents pertinent to the case. It can also include a request to inspect evidence or enter a property. Examples include bank statements, credit card statements, payroll records, investment records, 401k plan documents, real estate records, phone bills, calendars, travel expenses, etc. The request might include records for period of time, which can be years.
Bank statements, investment statements and credit card statements are available online, or might require a request for some older item, but these are fairly easy to produce. If there are items that you don’t have and can’t get, your attorney will state that you do not have them. Sometimes attorneys use a record retrieval service to obtain records from companies.
Not answering production request or producing only some of what was requested will most likely result in a hearing to compel production. If the production is not forthcoming, a court may levy sanctions.
Sanctions are one tool the court has available to punish a party for not complying with the court’s order. It often is structured as an order to pay the other party’s attorney fees for having to make a request for enforcement.
Yes. Some objections include that the request is too vague, too broad, too invasive of a party’s right to privacy, or irrelevant. An example of too broad might be asking for bank statements going back more than 3-5 years. An example of too vague might be asking for every email you ever sent or received. An example of too invasive might be medical and psychological records. An example of an irrelevant request might be for your college transcripts.
Interrogatories are questions that the other side asks. You must respond with written answers and you must swear that your answers are truthful. A few examples of interrogatory questions might be “Have you used illegal drugs?” and “Please list every instance of illegal drug use in the last five years.”
A Request for Admissions is a set of statements posed by the opposing party for you to Admit or Deny. An example of a request for admission might be, “Have you had sexual relations with anyone but your spouse?”
A request for disclosure is framed as questions about the names of any relevant parties in the case, the legal theories and facts of the case, and names of people with relevant information about the case, i.e., possible witness. It is important to make sure to name anyone who you might want to call as a witness. Otherwise, that person might be unable to testify.
A deposition is an interview of a party, expert or witness to a case. It is often in person but can be remote or by written questions. The testimony is under oath. All parties to the case are usually in attendance, as well as their attorneys. The deposition is recorded by a court reporter and is sometimes videotaped. The court reporter prepares a transcript of the deposition.
A deposition is one tool that an attorney can use to find out how a party, witness or expert will say prior to trial. It can be used in place of testimony in some limited circumstances or to impeach a witness who testifies in court to something other than was said at the deposition.
Discovery is the means by which you gain evidence to prove your case. If you don’t answer discovery then you cannot use any of the information at trial. If you don’t disclose your experts and witnesses, you can’t have them testify at trial.
Once a request for production is served, there is a continuing duty to supplement the production as new documents become available. If you sent all of your bank statements through a certain date, the next month there is another bank statement to produce.