Modern Family Matters

What Should You Expect from the Statutory Discovery Process?

September 14, 2023 with Pacific Cascade Legal Season 1 Episode 109
Modern Family Matters
What Should You Expect from the Statutory Discovery Process?
Show Notes Transcript

Join us for our live event as we sit down with Lead Paralegal, Lisa Parsons, to discuss the purpose of the discovery process in a family law case, what to expect, and how you can start preparing for it ahead of time. In this interview, Lisa covers the following:

·       What is discovery?

·       When does the discovery process get started?

·       Why is discovery required in a divorce?

·       What kind of information needs to be produced?

·       What happens if your ex withholds information?

·       How can you make the discovery process more cost effective?


If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys, please call our office at (503) 227-0200, or visit our website at https://www.pacificcascadelegal.com.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this communication is intended to provide legal advice nor does it constitute a client-attorney relationship, therefore you should not interpret the contents as such.

Intro:
Welcome to Modern Family Matters, a podcast devoted to exploring family law topics that matter most to you. Covering a wide range of legal, personal, and family law matters, with expert analysis from skilled attorneys and professional guests, we hope that our podcast provides answers, clarity, and guidance towards a better tomorrow for you and your family. Here's your host, Steve Altishin.

Steve Altishin  
I'm Steve Altishin, Director of Client Partnerships at Pacific Cascade Legal. And today we have our lead paralegal, Lisa Parsons to talk about what should you expect from the statutory discovery process? Lisa, how are you doing today?

Lisa Parsons  
I'm good, Steve, how are you?

Steve Altishin  
I'm doing well. And today's topic is a little bit legal. And of course, it's got the word statutory in it, which means the state regulates it. So let's just kind of start, before talking about the statutory stuff, what discovery in general means. What is it?

Lisa Parsons  
Discovery is the term that we use in the legal industry to talk about financial information and assets. So when we say discovery, we mean things like property deeds, bank statements, investment account statements, you know, mortgage insurance, basically any record that discloses information about your assets and your liabilities.

Steve Altishin  
So how does that get started? What kind of process gets the discovery stuff going?

Lisa Parsons  
So in a case for dissolution of marriage, or legal separation, the courts, you know, the state mandates that parties exchanged certain financial records within 30 days of filing their first appearance in the case. So if you file a petition for dissolution of marriage, you'll need to immediately begin gathering and disclosing records about your assets and liabilities, the other party has to do the same thing. And each party exchanges this information and evidence to disclose things that are important for their divorce.

Steve Altishin  
And this is required in every divorce?

Lisa Parsons  
That's correct. Oftentimes, attorneys will expand on the statutory requirements, where they will want more records, but at a bare minimum, parties are required to exchange you know, these certain records.

Steve Altishin  
Okay well what happens if a party just refuses, they ignore you? They say no. How can you make the other party do this?

Lisa Parsons  
Typically, what you would have to do in that situation is seek the court to compel their compliance. So essentially, you're going to the court and you're telling a judge, you know, Judge, I complied with my requirements, but the other party has failed to turn over their discovery records. And the court will require that the other party do so, or they will impose sanctions.

Steve Altishin  
I imagine this is the question you get all the time is, well, what information? I mean, give me some specifics, what do I have to, during the statutory requirements process, provide? You know, what kind of things do I have to find and show them?

Lisa Parsons  
Typically, it's one to three years worth of tax records. So your income tax returns, your W2 statements, all schedules and attachments that go along with your tax filings, your income records, 12 months worth of bank statements, current statements for all retirement or debt, as well as a handful of other, you know, records along those same lines. So you are trying to disclose, this is everything that is in existence at the time that I'm seeking the dissolution of my marriage, and these are, you know, the account transactions or currencies that have occurred for the period prior to filing the dissolution of marriage or legal separation filing.

Steve Altishin  
And this includes, it sounds like they're trying to get not just property that each person owns, but also the income. So I'm assuming that this information is important to get to be able to actually resolve the case both, you know, there's child support, there's spousal support, there's property division, the whole ball of wax.

Lisa Parsons  
Yes, exactly. Even in cases where support is not an issue. It's necessary to disclose those financial records, those income records, to kind of verify that support is not an issue, especially when children aren't involved. And so we really do want to see kind of a broad scope image of assets and liabilities involved in a case, as well as things like insurance policies. I think it's important to provide that information in the financial records, to really let your legal team or the other party know what is involved in this dissolution or legal separation.

Steve Altishin  
Is it often you get a question, how do I find these? Where do I actually get this information from?

Lisa Parsons  
Yes, often it can be, they can come up.I think now that we're a bit more technology based, a lot of people find it easier to log into their accounts online or on mobile and download statements that can then be provided. But sometimes these records do require a bit of digging, and you need to contact third parties to obtain copies, whether it is a banking institution, contacting the tax agencies, requesting information, you know, from your employer related to your income if you don't keep your earning statements. So sometimes, yes, you do have to do a little bit of work to obtain and provide these records.

Steve Altishin  
You said copies, so it made me kind of think, I don't have to provide you originals? I don't have to give you original deeds or something like that?

Lisa Parsons  
It is my hope that you do not do that. You know, for my cases for my clients, I always recommend that they provide us with electronic copies. That's ultimately what we're going to be working with and providing, since we're a paperless office, but we don't want your originals. And you shouldn't be giving originals to the other party, except in very specific circumstances when it's the appropriate stage to do so. Such as a vehicle title, when you know, at the end of a case, you're signing it over to the other party, you really want to maintain your original documents and just provide copies to your legal team and the other side as appropriate.

Steve Altishin  
This initial statutory discovery, what does it lead to, or can it lead to? I mean, you said there's other stuff that your attorney can ask for, but what's the, you know, what can that lead to? Can if I give them something? Can they call me in and have me talk about it? Where can all that kind of stuff go in terms of discovering stuff?

Lisa Parsons  
Yes, that's absolutely right. So oftentimes, we're using discovery as the initial tool to provide information. Sometimes it can lead to more questions and answers. And so we might need to file a notice of deposition to take the deposition of another party on the record to ask them questions about, you know, their their account transactions or their income to better understand what those records what information they entail and provide.

Steve Altishin  
Sounds like, if both parties do this, there's got to be, it's got to help make it easier to resolve the case and to actually negotiate because at least everybody knows what's out there.

Lisa Parsons  
That's absolutely right. One of the things that I see most often is that cases are prolonged due to discovery issues. One party might believe that there are additional accounts that exist or, you know, reviewing bank statements, you see that additional accounts exist, but records weren't provided for those other accounts. And so more time, and, frankly, money is spent trying to go after that information and records and that can get to the extent where your legal team has to subpoena those records directly from an institution to verify that what you've disclosed is actually accurate. So, you know, one thing that I always recommend to my clients is that, you know, being forthcoming and honest and upfront about all accounts that exist, you know, in the beginning of a case, and disclosing those records to your legal team, is going to save you a lot of time and money down the line.

Steve Altishin  
What if I just don't have something?  I don't have it. I mean, they want it, I don't have it, I don't have this deed, or I don't have that title, or I don't have that W2?

Lisa Parsons  
And that's not too much of a problem. What's important is that you tell your attorney or your legal team that it exists, and why maybe you don't have a copy of it. So it might be a situation where you only have one deed to your house and the other party possesses it. You can tell your legal team that that's the case and that a deed would exist. We often have tools and options for ways that we can obtain those on your behalf. So just making sure that we understand what does exist and what doesn't exist is an important piece of the statutory discovery process.

Steve Altishin  
Is the stuff I get, I want to say confidential, meaning it maybe goes to the other side, but I mean, can someone take my bank statement and run around and say, okay, this person has $482,000 in this bank account?

Lisa Parsons  
I would like to say that, that wouldn't or shouldn't happen. In cases where there is a concern about your records being disclosed, you'll want to talk to your legal team about getting a protective order in place, and that document is going to protect those records and how they can be used or disclosed. It's not in every case that those are necessary. But if you have concerns about, you know, the other party disclosing your records, it's really important to tell your legal team on the front end that you would like to look into getting a protective order for your records.

Steve Altishin  
Finally, last question, about money. You hear a lot about, wow you spent my money early, and a lot of it was getting discovery. But it seems to me that not getting discovery is going to make a case take longer and cost more in the end.

Lisa Parsons  
That's absolutely right. You know, often, if you disclose everything at once, you are going to see a larger chunk of time that your legal team has spent working through those records or providing those records. But usually doing, you know, sitting down and doing it in one instance, you are saving a substantial amount of time versus, you know, multiple times a week having to touch on this issue or process additional records or disclose, you know, piecemeal documents to the other side. So, you know, discoveries is certainly one of the more expensive pieces of a case, but it can be done in a cost effective manner. And that's really by disclosing everything on the front end, providing your team with the information they've asked for, or explaining when things aren't in your possession or in your control.

Steve Altishin  
So don't drag your feet.

Lisa Parsons  
Yes, please do that. That's a great message.

Steve Altishin  
I like that message. Well, thank you for joining us today. It's been really, really helpful. Getting the ideas about discovery, financial discovery, what it is going through it. I think that is one of the more trepidatious things people have going in. You know, do I have to really do this and why I have to do this. And so talking about it, explaining it, that was really helpful. Thank you very much.

Lisa Parsons  
Thanks for having me, Steve.

Steve Altishin  
You bet. And thank you, everyone else, for joining us today. If anyone has further questions, feel free to contact our firm. We can get you connected, someone can help. Stay safe, stay happy, and be well.

Outro:
This has been Modern Family Matters, a legal podcast focusing on providing real answers and direction for individuals and families. Our podcast is sponsored by Pacific Cascade Legal, serving families in Oregon and Washington. If you are in need of legal counsel or have additional questions about a family law matter important to you, please visit our websites at pacificcascadelegal.com or pacificcascadefamilylaw.com. You can also call our headquarters at (503) 227-0200 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our seasoned attorneys. Modern Family Matters, advocating for your better tomorrow and offering legal solutions important to the modern family.