Discovery – It’s Not Just an Expensive Cable Channel!

May 7, 2009

Discovery –

It’s Not Just an Expensive Cable Channel!

When you are in the process of getting a divorce, there is a period of time called “discovery.”  Much like Discovery the channel, it’s about finding out information you may or may not have known.  It is a broad term that includes requests for documents, written questions to each other, and possibly a deposition.

Formal v. Informal Discovery

In Hennepin County, MN and many other counties in Minnesota, there is a preference for doing “informal discovery” in family law.  This is because often the parties are able to share information easily and completely without having to go through more expensive legal channels.  It can be as simple as your lawyer writing to the other lawyer and asking for some pay stubs, tax records, and anything else that might be financially relevant. 

However, when the parties are in disagreement about what information is relevant, or the scope of relevant information, the lawyers might proceed with formal discovery.  Formal discovery includes formal pleadings requesting information.

Request for Production of Documents

One of the formal pleadings you may receive or serve on the other party is called “Request for Production of Documents.”  This is a detailed list of documents that you ask the other side to provide.  Some of the documents might be things you think you have, but you ask for them anyway in case you find you’re missing something.  This will likely include requests for income statements, financial records, health records, and any written information about potential experts that might testify at trial.  You have approximately 30 days to provide this information, unless the other side grants you an extension of time.


Interrogatories is the formal pleading that is simply just a lot of questions about who you are, what your plans are, what your thoughts are.  It will likely include questions about your job history, your relationship with your children, your thoughts about custody, who else you think might testify at the trial.  Like the request for production of documents, these are due within 30 days as well.


In my experience, depositions are rare in family law.  However, sometimes the first two formal methods of obtaining information do not give the attorneys clear and complete information.  In that case, you have the right to depose the opposing party.  The person being deposed might be asked to bring additional documents to the deposition, and to discuss his or her opinion of them.  The deposition might take a few hours to all day, and will be recorded by a court reporter.  Depositions can be expensive and stressful if you are unprepared, and your attorney should sit down with you before hand to let you know what to expect and how to act during the deposition.  They can often be a good tool to help the parties better understand each other and therefore avoid a trial. 

Emily M. Matson, Esq.

Moore Family Law, P.A.

Phone:  763-951-7330


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