How do people know what they owe and know what they own?
The discovery process is how you obtain information, particularly if you’re a dependent spouse and don’t know what assets are in the marriage or which are non-marital or marital. It is the way you find out from the other side or from third parties, in written or oral form, the status of your assets and liabilities. Written form is typically where your lawyer sends a series of questions in writing for the opposing party to answer; those answers or questions are what we call interrogatories. There could also be oral discovery, called depositions, where someone deposes the other party or a third party who has information that’s relevant, to find out information regarding the nature of the assets, the nature of the liabilities, and valuation issues.
Either party can obtain experts on their behalf or joint experts to value the assets. If they’re bank accounts and security accounts then you can just get statements, but if they’re antiques, jewelry, real estate, businesses, you should obtain particular experts in those fields to value those assets. Pennsylvania is very liberal in its discovery, which means the courts are going to really allow you to do pretty much whatever you need to do to obtain the information to present your case.
The assumption is that people are going to tell the truth when they’re giving this information and valuing these assets. Depositions are taken under oath, so if somebody does not tell the truth, they’re subject to the same penalties that they would be subject to if they were testifying in court and prevaricating in court.
David L. Ladov is a partner and co-chair of the Family Law Group at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP. He focuses his practice on divorce, including custody, child support, equitable distribution, abuse and domestic relations. David can be reached at (267) 675-4976 or [email protected].
Robert Whitelaw is a managing partner and co-chairman of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP’s Litigation Department and Family Law Group. He has 40 years of experience in practicing family law. Robert can be reached at [email protected] or (215) 665-300.