If you've ever watched a legal drama, you've no doubt witnessed the process of discovery. Perhaps best illustrated in My Cousin Vinny, discovery is the process by which the parties to a legal action trade information about the case.
Of course, My Cousin Vinny, involved a criminal trial, but the rules are similar for divorces as well. Both sides are obligated to turn over certain information. The purpose of the discovery rules is to ascertain the truth and avoid unfair surprise at trial.
In divorce cases, discovery focuses on preparing a complete list of marital assets. As part of this process, your attorney may have you sign a number of authorization forms that allow him or her to investigate your financial situation with your accountant or bookkeeper and/or check your credit report for a list of your legal obligations. And if you think your spouse is hiding assets, your attorney may want to hire someone to investigate the situation.
Your St. Paul divorce attorney may also have you do a lot of the collecting of this information. You can start preparing for the discovery process at the outset of your divorce case by collecting the following information for your attorney: income tax returns; paystubs; bank statements; credit card statements, promissory notes, mortgages, and other debt instruments; personal financial statements; statements on investment accounts, pension plans, annuities; life insurance policy information; documents regarding ownership of real and tangible personal property; and family or small business financial records and ownership information. In short, you'll need a list of all of your assets and liabilities and documents proving the value of those assets and liabilities.
If child custody is going to be an issue in the divorce, the discovery process will also focus on collecting information regarding the wellbeing of the children. Your attorney may request medical records, school transcripts, activity schedules, and any other relevant information.
Your Twin Cities divorce attorney may also want to consult with a counselor or child psychologist and set up an evaluation with your children.
The process of discovery is ongoing. That means once a party makes a request for a certain type of document, the other party has a continuing obligation to supplement that request if the information changes or if a new asset is obtained. Likewise, if a child's medical record changes or his school performance declines or improves, the parties are obligated to keep the each other informed of the new developments.
Unlike movies like My Cousin Vinny, the discovery process is really where most of the "action" takes place. Here, the parties will start forming their basis for negotiation and settlement. The parties may even request depositions in which both sides can question a witness about a particular set of facts, very similar to what would occur in an actual trial.