Discovery during the Divorce Process

Under the Family Law Act in California, the court is required to divide community assets and community liabilities equally between the parties, unless the parties have entered into a property settlement agreement, which sets forth a different arrangement.

In view of the foregoing, one of the tasks for the attorney and his or her client is to identify and place a value on all community assets and liabilities. If this information is not available, or if for some reason the accuracy of the information is suspect, the law permits various procedures of investigation, which are commonly called "discovery".

Discovery may consist of information investigation and verification of assets and liabilities. More complicated discovery may consist of depositions taken of the other party or of someone else who has important information or of interrogatories sent to the other party. Depositions basically are questions asked orally and answered under oath. Interrogatories generally follow the same approach, except that the questions are asked in writing, and the answers are made in writing under oath. Further discovery may include the hiring of appraisers to evaluate property, investigators to locate property, accountants to examine books and records (including such things as bank accounts, stocks, and business records), and other special consultants as the facts may require.

We want you to understand that you have the right to pursue discovery. Obviously, discovery takes time and costs money. The degree to which discovery is necessary in any given case will depend, in part on the complexity and size of the community property estate, and will depend on whether or not the client has sufficient accurate knowledge of the estate so that this knowledge may be relied on in place of discovery. The time and expense of discovery are sometimes justified by the new information that is learned. In other cases, the information obtained may just confirm what was already known or believed to be true.

In view of the foregoing, one of the important decisions that must be made by the client and the attorney in each dissolution case is that of the need for and the extent of the discovery. The safest practice in all cases would be to utilize maximum discovery. In a given case, however, the attorney and client may feel that the time and expense of discovery are not warranted.

The extent, description, and value of each party's separate property can also be important factors in determining a fair and equitable property settlement, spousal support, and child support. Discovery is available with respect to separate property assets, as well as with respect to community property assets.

When you have finished reading this, the subject should be fully discussed with your attorney and the necessary decisions with respect to discovery can then be made.

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The choice of legal representation when filing for divorce or trying to resolve a family dispute is important to you and your children and should not be made lightly. Please review the information on our website, consider our qualifications, and then contact the San Diego law offices of divorce lawyer Marilyn Bierer today for a case evaluation and review of your legal rights. Because of the serious and complex nature of family law matters, our attorneys must meet with you in person before we can provide any legal advice concerning your family law issue.