Dear Cassie: I am going through a divorce. What is discovery?

Dear K.M.:

Discovery is a component of divorce whereby each side attempts to learn as much as possible about all of the facts of the case. The types of discovery that are appropriate in your case will vary, depending on the issues in your case. For example, if one of the parties owns a business, it is possible that the business will need to be valued by an expert for purposes of equitable distribution. Similarly, for self-employed individuals, it may be necessary to have an expert conduct a cash flow evaluation of that party’s income for support purposes (alimony and/or child support). Other types of discovery include a Request for Production of Documents, whereby a party requests that the other party produce records relevant to their matter; Interrogatories, which are requests for written answers to questions under oath; and Subpoenas, which are requests for records or information from a non-party to the case (such as a banking institution).

The Court usually establishes deadlines for the completion of discovery early on in the case. Those deadlines are influenced by the issues in dispute. Discovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the case and whether the party from whom discovery is sought is cooperating with the process.

The discovery process can be critical to a fair resolution of a divorce case. This is because it makes it more likely that any settlement reached is based on accurate and complete information. If settlement is not possible, discovery is necessary for the judge in your case to understand all of the issues and to be able to fairly adjudicate the outcome.

If you are dealing with discovery issues in your matter, you should seek the advice of matrimonial counsel.

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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.