Our Portland Divorce Attorney Reviews the Discovery Process

the discovery process
In all civil lawsuits, including divorce and family law matters, each side is entitled to ask and receive documents and information from the other side. Full disclosure of assets and liabilities is necessary for the parties to negotiate a settlement, or for the court to divide the property in the event the parties cannot come to an agreement. The process of disclosing this information to the other side is known as “discovery.” Portland divorce attorney Ronald Allen Johnston guides his clients through the discovery process, which may seem overwhelming at first. In Oregon, the most common forms of discovery are requests for production of documents and oral depositions.

Requests for Production

Requests for production of documents occur in two forms: a statutory request and a Rule 43 request. A statutory request is rooted in our state divorce laws, allowing either party to request financial information such as tax returns, income statements, information about debts, real estate documents, retirement statements and any other information regarding a person’s assets or liabilities. When one party requests this information of the other, the requesting spouse must also provide his or her own documentation.

A Rule 43 request stems from the Oregon Rules of Civil Procedure, whereby one party may request of the other to produce any document relevant to an issue. This also includes documents that may lead to relevant evidence. This is a very broad rule and encompasses nearly every type of financial document.

Statutory and Rule 43 requests are a part of nearly every divorce, and they also occur in a child custody or child support proceeding between unmarried couples. Compliance with discovery requests is not optional, and failure to produce the requested documentation may lead to a judge ordering the non-complying party to pay the other’s attorney fees as punishment.

Depositions of Parties and Witnesses

A deposition occurs when the attorney for one party requests to question the other party or witness under oath. A deposition will not take place in divorce court, but usually at an attorney’s office. Both attorneys and parties will be present, and a court reporter will record and transcribe the proceeding.

Pre-trial depositions do not occur in every divorce in Oregon, and are not required if the parties agree to settle the case after receiving each other’s document production. Depositions are expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, parties should only use them if they cannot discern pertinent information from the documents alone. A deposition may be necessary if one spouse believes the other to be withholding information, hiding assets or if the case is set for trial.

Disclosure of documents and depositions of parties is an important part of the pre-trial phase, and in many cases, will lead to a settlement of the issues. The discovery process at first may seem overly broad and intrusive, but it is necessary and simply a part of obtaining a divorce. Discovery requires full disclosure of assets and liabilities, and parties who comply will move their case forward. Contact our Portland divorce lawyer Ronald Allen Johnston to discuss how the discovery process will affect you in your specific situation.

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