Divorce laws differ by state, and in North Carolina, spouses will typically separate and live apart for a year before their marriage is dissolved. Though the laws and specifics will vary, most people throughout the country must go through the discovery process before going to trial or navigating settlement negotiations. The spouse can initiate discovery, or the court will order it. Discovery is a broad term, and several different methods exist in North Carolina.
Request for production of documents
Request for admissions
We will take a closer look at interrogatories in a moment, but it is essential to have a basic understanding of the other three forms of discovery. When there is a request for a production of documents, it is usually initiated by one spouse. If one spouse is unsure of their family’s financial position because the other spouse handled it, they may request their spouse to produce bank records, tax returns, or other key documents that could paint a better picture. Depositions are legal proceedings where one spouse’s attorney asks the other spouse questions, done under oath. When the spouse provides your attorney with answers, they are recorded by a designated court reporter to ensure an accurate source to refer back to. Lastly, a request for admission is when there is a request for a spouse to, in writing, either affirm or deny facts that are directly related to the divorce case.
The purpose of interrogatories (and the other discovery methods) is to gather relevant information and evidence confirming a claim made by either spouse. When you have an accurate and complete understanding of the facts, your attorney will use them to negotiate a settlement agreement or use them at a formal trial.
The purpose of an interrogatory is very similar to everything we have previously outlined. Your attorney may use it to learn more about what assets were obtained during the marriage, how much money was earned (income), and even how money was spent. If you make an allegation against the other spouse, interrogatories can be an effective tool to gain more information and relevant details.
Unlike a deposition, it does not involve a court reporter. Typically, your attorney submits a series of questions to your spouse’s attorney. There will be a set time for how long your spouse has to answer them, and it is generally around 30 days. This gives them time to look into specifics about the questions, especially if they are about complex financial transactions or investments, and to speak with their attorney. In addition to their answers, they will likely have to provide documentation or other supporting evidence that backs their statements—which must be answered truthfully and to the best of their knowledge.
Although an interrogatory is not required, your attorney may use it as a method to gather information that you may sense your spouse is withholding. Additionally, it can be used in conjunction with other forms of discovery. If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, the answers provided in the interrogatory could be compared to requested documents such as bank records and tax returns.
Discovery in a Collaborative Case
You will still need important information and documents if you are going through a divorce in a collaborative way. We utilize similar processes, but we call them “friendly document exchanges” instead of the formal discovery process. Instead of 30-90 questions being provided to your spouse to answer in writing, these conversations happen in the collaborative meetings. This shortens the information gathering process which can save money and time.
Navigate Your Divorce Through Easterling Law, PLLC
During the divorce process, you must work through child custody, spousal/child support, alimony, and an equitable distribution of your assets. Though many divorces can be completed without ever having to go to court, we understand that in certain rare instances, it may be unavoidable. We represent a wide range of clients, including people who wish to pursue a collaborative divorce and those who are tied into a highly contested one that is bound to lead to litigation. To speak with an attorney about the specifics of your divorce, contact Easterling Law, PLLC, to schedule a consultation.