Responding To Your Divorce Lawyer’s Requests
You aren’t the only one busily gathering information. It’s likely your spouse will serve a set of interrogatories, written questions requiring written answers, on your attorney. Your spouse may know the answers to some of the questions as well as you do. However, each side has a right to pin the other down regarding assets, liabilities, income and expenses. Each side also has the right to learn of the other party’s contentions, and facts supporting contentions, such as a claim a particular asset is separate property.
This right to “discovery” of the facts relevant to your case extends to asking for your proposal for dividing the property. You’ve got to prepare for settlement or trial, so you won’t be wasting your time on this exercise. If some of the questions are ridiculous, your attorney will object and a compromise will probably be worked out. If you think that they are ridiculous, but your attorney says that you need to answer them, take a short break from this process, cool off and then come back to it, hopefully refreshed.
You may already have all the information that you need to answer the interrogatories. If it makes you feel better, your spouse will have to answer the set of questions that you send. Interrogatories are the most inexpensive way to get fundamental information under oath from your spouse. Discovery must be done to prepare for trial; the sooner it’s done, the sooner you’re ready.
Start working on your draft answers immediately. Return them to your attorney on or before the date requested. They must be reviewed and the formal answers prepared for you to sign under oath. If you need more time, let your attorney know as soon as possible so an extension can be requested before the due date.
A Demand for Production of Documents is an especially useful discovery device. Existing documents are the best source of the detailed information needed to evaluate assets and liabilities. Whether documents are requested informally in a letter, or formally in a demand that may be filed with the court, depends on the nature of your case and the style of the attorneys involved.
If your attorney asks you to look for certain documents, it’s for a good reason. Make sure that you have looked everywhere if can’t find some of them. You may be committing yourself to a sworn statement they are not in your possession or control. You’ll also have to pay the expense of subpoenaing copies from a third party if you can’t find them yourself.
The discovery requests that you made to your spouse should be bearing fruit about now. Review the answers to interrogatories and documents you received from your spouse. Update your existing discovery with subpoenas to third parties such as banks, stockbrokers and lenders to verify and expand upon new information found in your spouse’s answers. Insurance companies and pension plan administrators usually provide all the information needed in response to a written request when you have your spouse’s release. It may be time to use Requests for Admissions to find out what your spouse is willing to admit to, or the reason why not.
The increasing contact between attorneys provides numerous opportunities to start casting the seeds of settlement. Nurture future settlement possibilities with little inquiries about your spouse’s objectives. Offer some bait of your own with tentative suggestions of what might induce you to settle.