Discovery is part of the court process in divorce cases as well as all types of litigation. Discovery is exchanging all relevant information about any issues in the case. This can be in regards to custody and parenting time, child support, spousal support, equitable distribution, or any other issues that may come up in a divorce action.
Under the New Jersey Court Rules, there are specific methods for requesting the information from the other party. A party can request documents from another party such as tax returns, bank statements, paystubs, etc. This is typically done with a notice to produce or a document request. A party can also ask for responses to written questions, which are known as interrogatories. Although not frequently used, a party can request the other party admit certain facts as a way to confirm their position or narrow the issues; this type of discovery device is known as a request for admissions. A party can also ask questions of the other party in person (usually the questions are asked by a party’s attorney unless they are self-represented), which is known as a deposition. At a deposition, a court reporter is present to take down all of the questions and answers, and the information is then transferred into a transcript. As part of the discovery process, a party can also obtain information from other sources such as banks, mortgage companies, employers, etc. The method for requesting this information is known as a subpoena. A party can also take depositions of fact witnesses or the other parties’ expert witnesses by way of a different type of subpoena.
In New Jersey, there is broad latitude in terms of what information can be requested in discovery. The standard is that the requested information must be reasonably calculated to lead to relevant evidence. The purpose of discovery is to have both parties provide all of the relevant information so that there is no such thing as a “trial by ambush,” where one party is lacking important or relevant information.
William J. Rudnik. is a family law attorney at Gebhardt & Kiefer, P.C. where he successfully represents clients in Family Law court in matters involving divorce, property division and more.