What Is The Purpose Of Discovery In My New Jersey Divorce?
By Noreen Bratton, NJCP
When your divorce attorney refers to “discovery”, he/she is referring to the exchange of information and documentation relative to all issues in your divorce. Discovery is in the form of the following requests for information and/or documentation:
- Interrogatories are written questions related to any aspect of the divorce. More specifically, special sets of written questions can include Divorce, Standard of Living/Marital Lifestyle, Custody/Parenting Time, Employability/Vocational, Business Interests, and Cause of Action. Generally, in New Jersey, you have sixty (60) days from the date of service upon you to answer Interrogatories unless otherwise directed by the Court. [NJ Court Rule 4:-17]
- Notice to Produce Documents is a list of documents that are being requested of you that pertain to your divorce. More specifically, the following documents are typically requested: Tax returns, Paystubs, statements for credit cards, bank accounts, mortgages, automobile loans, retirement accounts, investment accounts, and any other document evidencing any and all assets, income and/or liabilities. Generally, in New Jersey, you have thirty five (35) days from the date of service upon you to provide the requested documentation unless otherwise directed by the Court. [NJ Court Rule 4:-18]
- Depositions are verbal questions being posed to you under oath and in the presence of a court reporter. You may be asked to provide documentation at the time of your deposition. Your attorney will attend the deposition with you. [NJ Court Rule 4:-14]
- Request for Admissions is a discovery device that allows one party to request that another party admit or deny the truth of a statement under oath. These admissions are carried throughout the litigation as evidentiary proof. Generally, in New Jersey, you have thirty (30) days from the date of service upon you to provide a response to the Request for Admissions unless otherwise directed by the Court. [NJ Court Rule 4:-22]
- Subpoenas are a last resort for attorneys. Unfortunately, if your spouse does not cooperate with the discovery process, fails to make full disclosure, and/or refuses to provide documentation in a timely fashion, it may become necessary for your attorney to issue subpoenas to collect the necessary information and documentation in your divorce. Subpoenas involve third party vendors who expend time and expense in providing the documents to your attorney. As such, as previously stated, subpoenas are a last resort. [NJ Court Rule 1-9]
While you may or may not engage in all of the aforementioned forms of discovery in your divorce, your attorney will assist you throughout this process; however, your attorney requires your diligent participation as you are the gatekeeper of your own information and documentation. The discovery process is imperative in your divorce so that you and your attorney have all of the pieces of the puzzle of your marriage to ensure that all issues are addressed at your final divorce hearing. It is a crucial time period for full disclosure of all income, expenses, assets and liabilities that need to be addressed.
You may be asking yourself “Why do I have to exchange this information with my spouse? He/She already knows or has everything.” Your attorney, who is advocating for you, does not know or have all of the information about your marriage. In order to best advise you, your attorney needs to review and analyze all of the discovery to resolve the divorce issues. Your attorney has a trained eye to review discovery that may require further investigation to best represent your position.
Should you have any questions regarding the discovery process in New Jersey, please consult with one of our attorneys in our Mount Laurel office by calling 856-795-3300.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.
Noreen Bratton is a New Jersey Certified Paralegal (NJCP) in Obermayer’s Mt. Laurel office.