What is discovery and why does my attorney need so many documents from me?

In the world of litigation, it is not always sufficient to simply offer as evidence an opinion based on conjecture or recollection. The most credible evidence is that which is supported by actual documentation or other physical evidence. If your domestic case involves contested issues of child custody, child support, spousal support, or property division, your attorney will need extensive financial and personal information and documentation from both you and the opposing party to verify such things as each party’s income and expenses, account balances, and to ensure that a complete financial disclosure has been made.

Discovery is a process attorneys utilize to obtain information and documents from the opposing party. Discovery requests are generally served by both attorneys — your attorney will serve discovery on the opposing party, and the opposing attorney will serve discovery on you. In family law cases, this discovery is generally in the form of interrogatories (written questions) and request for production of documents. Sometimes other forms of discovery are utilized such as depositions, subpoenas, and request for admissions. In North Carolina, it is not unusual for family law attorneys to serve discovery requesting financial records that date back one to three years prior to the parties’ date of separation. The amount and type of discovery in your case will likely depend on the issues at hand. Some cases require more complex discovery, such as those dealing with business valuations or tracing of separate property.

Discovery is a vital part of your case. The documents and information that are exchanged through the discovery process allow your attorney to prepare your case for settlement negotiations, mediation, or trial. Your cooperation in providing your attorney with the documentation and information that he/she requests is critically important and will have a direct bearing on the results that your attorney is able to achieve on your behalf.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.