In many Michigan divorces, particularly those with significant financial assets or where custody is in dispute, I will conduct discovery, which is a legitimate part of the legal process designed to gather the facts needed for settlement or trial. While you and I will work together to gather financial and personal information to better assess the possible outcome of your case, negotiate a fair resolution or prepare for trial, there may be information that you simply do not have at your disposal. If you are feeling in the dark as to finances, it is vital that we conduct thorough discovery to obtain an accurate picture of your assets and liabilities. For example, we will need to know if your spouse has credit cards on which you are jointly obligated. We'll also need to know how much your spouse has in his or her retirement accounts, and if there are any bank accounts unknown to you. Where parties have anticipated divorce, they may scramble to transfer assets into someone else’s name; they may open savings or investment accounts in other towns or even out of the country, or sell assets to save up for legal fees. I can help you uncover hidden assets if they are out there.
I utilize a broad spectrum of discovery techniques to gain a clear understanding of your assets, income and liabilities.
Interrogatories and requests for production of documents are two widely utilized discovery methods in Michigan divorce cases. The court rules authorize written discovery in divorce cases, and it is commonplace. If you have been served with interrogatories, we can help you assemble the necessary information. If I believe the requests are improper, I can file an objection and ask the court to strike the discovery requests.
Another means of discovery, less common than the written variety, is the deposition. This is an opportunity for the attorneys to orally question the parties or any witness under oath in the presence of a court reporter prior to trial. Sometimes I do this in highly contested custody cases in an effort to understand the opposing party’s position, to evaluate how the person will perform as a witness at trial, and gather facts to prepare. Depositions are also a common discovery practice in high net worth divorces or cases where the parties are self-employed and income is difficult to determine. In more complex cases, I may conduct depositions of counselors or medical professionals, accountants, business valuation specialists and anyone else who may testify as a witness at the trial. If you are required to give a deposition, I will meet with you well in advance to prepare.
Your medical, psychological and counseling records may be subpoenaed. However, before any of your medical providers or any counseling professional may disclose any of your health information, they must obtain written authorization from you. If one of your healthcare providers or counselors tells you they have received a subpoena or other request from your spouse’s attorney, let me know immediately. In custody cases, psychological and counseling records are often highly relevant. Your involvement in a divorce or custody case does not mean you no longer have a right to privacy, though. If you choose to assert the physician-patient or therapist-client privileges, this can protect you from having to disclose your medical or counseling records. However, one consequence to exercising these privileges is that the court may prohibit the person exercising them from introducing any of his or her own medical or psychological evidence. If you anticipate that your medical or counseling records will be subpoenaed, let me know early in the proceeding so you can formulate a strategy for responding.
Finally, be forewarned that all your banking records, telephone bills, employment records, social media accounts, and essentially every aspect of your personal life may be the subject of subpoena as you move through the divorce process.
Discovery, while it may seem tedious at times, is a necessary part of preparing your Michigan divorce case for trial. If you have questions regarding the discovery process or any aspect of Michigan divorce, call my Holland, Michigan office today.
© 2019 Thomas C. Kates, Attorney and Mediator