Discovery in Maryland Divorce Litigation

Discovery in Maryland Divorce Litigation

When you go through a divorce in the State of Maryland, you have a lot of competing thoughts going through your head. We can assume for this blog that the hearing will occur in the Circuit Court for Howard County, but it could be any other circuit court, as well.

Consider these thoughts. My spouse is going to hide the assets or income. How do I find them? My spouse is very tricky. I think he is smarter than an attorney. What will you do about this? How do I find out about the trips my spouse has been secretly taking with his paramour? How about the gifts he is giving her?

Many of these questions will be answered in the discovery phase of litigation, which is an opportunity to learn more about a case.

Your attorney should have one or more conversations with you at the beginning of the representation to talk about what you need to learn about your spouse and the best ways to get it. If not, ask. Quite frankly, demand!

The tools of discovery available under the Maryland Rules help your Maryland family law lawyer to anticipate what will be presented against you in your divorce case.

You should always start with a plan. And remember, not only can you ask for discovery, but discovery will be asked from you, as well. You will need to respond thoroughly and appropriately.

Let me tell you a bit about some of the different types of discovery tools your attorney should discuss with you.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are questions-no more than thirty–to be answered within thirty days once they have been sent out.

They need to be answered carefully, because the answers are going to be under oath. This means they can be used as evidence during any court proceeding, so the answers need to be carefully reviewed by your attorney.

So, what questions do you want to ask? You want to ask questions that matter with regard to the litigation. If a primary focus of your case is adultery, then ask questions about adultery. If it is custody, then ask questions about custody. Perhaps there is an issue of who else is watching your kids. Ask about it. Financial issues? Absolutely ask questions to learn about the assets, liabilities, income and expenses. You can learn about perks of employment, child care arrangements, trips and vacations, who else knows about issues in your pending divorce. If it may become part of your divorce, you can ask about it.

Requests For Production, Inspection and Copying of Documents.

Now we get to the nitty gritty. Divorce and custody cases in Maryland often turn on the production of documents. You can ask for all documents that are in your spouse’s custody or control. This is a huge power in a case where documents are important, which is not necessarily ever single case. Your spouse may have crucial papers, videotapes, photographs, social media and/or other electronic data that you need to introduce as evidence in Circuit Court at your divorce trial.

Every case is different. In your case, you might need more business documents, like tax returns, employment/business records, and copies of telephone and utility bills. In other cases, the documents will be more “personal”-as in e-mail correspondence, receipts for personal expenditures, passports. Recently, in addition to the gold mine of emails, attorneys have begun to mine social media evidence, especially Facebook posts, text messages, tweets and far more.

You and your Maryland attorney need to establish a plan to determine what documents you want to get from your spouse.

Depositions of Persons, Entities and For Documents

A deposition is a process where a litigant or other person is asked questions by an attorney under oath. I tend to hold depositions at my office in Howard County, but they can occur anywhere, as well as by phone, video or otherwise. Because it is under oath and recorded by a court reporter, it may be introduced into evidence at your trial in a Howard County divorce case or elsewhere in any Maryland divorce case.

In a deposition, your attorney can ask about almost any issue in your case, ranging from the reasons for divorce, custody, alimony, child support, asset issues, real property, corporate issues, employment, adultery, child care, and so much more. Think your spouse is hiding something? Have you attorney ask about it.

Depositions can also be taken of other people involved in your case, such as employers, potential paramours, neighbors, teachers, financial people, expert witnesses and so much more.

Often, attorneys take advantage of the deposition process to obtain documents from third parties, which is entirely permissible, as long as they are related to facts in your case.

The bottom line is that you and your Maryland divorce attorney, whether it is a Howard County divorce or elsewhere in Maryland, need to have a long chat to determine what discovery devices to employ in your case. There are others in addition to this, such as Requests for Admissions of Facts and Genuineness of Documents, as well as inspections of property and persons, but these are a bit less used and can be discussed on a one to one basis with your attorney.

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