Pre-trial discovery is a set of procedures for the exchange of information between the parties to a civil case, including a divorce case. In Minnesota, several methods of discovery are used in divorce proceedings. One of the most common is “interrogatories.” These are written questions which must be answered by the other party, in writing and under oath. Responses must be served within 30 days, although it is very common for the parties to agree to reasonable extensions.
Requests for the production of documents are one of the most effective ways of getting information from the other spouse. While interrogatory answers can often be evasive, document requests require the other party to produce the actual records – whether in paper or electronic form – containing information about subjects such as income, bank accounts and asset ownership and valuation.
Finally, the attorney for each spouse will have the opportunity to question the other spouse in person and under oath in a deposition. A court reporter will take down every word spoken and prepare a written transcript. Depositions are usually conducted after written discovery is exchanged, and are often used to follow up on the information provided in the answers to interrogatories and the documents previously turned over.
Discovery promotes fairness between the parties by requiring the disclosure, upon request, of any information that might be relevant at the trial or lead to the discovery of relevant information. It helps the parties narrow the issues to be resolved, and reduces a party’s ability to hide information or surprise the other party by presenting information for the first time at trial. It can be a tedious process, but it is often essential to getting a fair result in a property division, alimony, child support or custody dispute.
Source: Findlaw.com, “Exchange of Documents and Information – ‘Discovery,’” accessed Nov. 26, 2016