As much as you may have wanted to settle your divorce out of court, you find yourself facing litigation. Perhaps certain issues were too important for you to compromise, or your spouse may be digging in and refusing to cooperate. Whatever the reason, you may feel intimidated by the process — and with good cause. Some couples feel they lose control of their divorce once the courts get involved, so it will be helpful if you understand as much as possible before moving forward.
One of the first steps in the divorce process is the discovery phase. During this time, your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will attempt to gain a complete picture of your marriage, particularly concerning your finances and your goals for child custody, if applicable. Discovery is critical if you expect to get a fair share of property division.
From the earliest stages of discovery, you can expect frustration. Both attorneys will request information from the other side, and you and your spouse will have 30 days to respond. These requests may seek bank statements, investment information and income details, but they may also involve more difficult evidence, such as emails or text messages, photos or access to social media. Your spouse must be truthful and thorough in responding to disclosure requests, but be prepared to fight for the information.
In addition to handing over requested information, you and your spouse may have to complete interrogatories. These are questionnaires that provide more detailed information about assets, employment, income, insurance policies and educational background. In addition to providing a fair assessment for property division, the information may help the court determine whether alimony will factor into your divorce.
You can expect your spouse’s attorney to depose you. This may be one of the most intimidating parts of discovery. Both attorneys will have the opportunity to question anyone who will testify at the trial, including expert witnesses. Although these proceedings do not take place in a Georgia courtroom, you will be under oath and compelled to speak truthfully. A court reporter and perhaps someone to videotape the proceedings will be present.
After gathering information from disclosures, interrogatories, depositions and other methods, your attorney can build your case and prepare to dispute the arguments your spouse intends to present. As tense and frustrating as the discovery phase may be, it is critical if you hope to improve your chances of reaching your goals at the end of the divorce.