What is Discovery
Discovery is the phase of litigation in which both sides request information from one another. The purpose is to learn about each position taken by each side to facilitate a settlement or, if a settlement is not possible, to get as much information as possible to be used at trial.
There are two main types of discovery in Family Law cases: Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. These requests must be made formally and sent to the other side or his/her lawyer. Once received, the Maryland Rules state that you have thirty (30) days to answer. There is a prescribed format for answering these discovery requests and you may find that you will need an attorney to help you ask for discovery and to respond to the other side’s discovery requests of you. Please note that you are required to respond to these requests and failure to do so may result in various sanctions against you.
Not everything is “discoverable.” You do not have to answer questions that seek irrelevant or objectionable information. Also, privileged attorney-client communications or attorney work product is not a proper subject for discovery. You are wise to discuss what information is not discoverable with an attorney so that you do not risk sanctions for failure to comply. At the Mulinazzi Law Office, we understand that the amount of information that will be requested of you is intimidating. When we get discovery requests, our attorneys will work with you to determine what must be answered and what can be reasonably excluded.
There are other less used discovery methods. For example, depositions, subpoenae, examinations, and Requests for Admissions. A deposition is question/answer styled inquiry in a room with attorneys and a court reporter taking down every word that is said. The attorneys at the Mulinazzi Law Office prepare clients on how to listen to the questions and answer only the question that is asked. Depositions are adversarial and it’s not a time to let your guard down. Requests for Admissions of Facts is a document that asks the other side to admit any material fact or the authenticity of a document that is to be presented as evidence during the trial. This procedure facilitates the fair and efficient administration of justice by minimizing the time and expense incurred in proving issues that are not in dispute. A mental or physical examination of a party may be authorized by a court in the exercise of its discretion if a party’s condition is an issue in litigation, for example if an alleged alcoholic parent or mentally ill parent is trying to gain custody. Finally, either side can issue a subpoena to the other party or a third party requiring the production of specific documentation to be used as evidence at trial. All discovery is governed by the Maryland Rules and the attorneys at Mulinazzi Law Office are highly skilled at using discovery to compel and gather the information you need to prove your case.
If an opposing litigant won’t answer or produce information, the court may order them to do so. If they don’t, they may be found in contempt and the Court may bar them from participating in the trial and/or pay for your attorney’s fees associated with the discovery.