Imagine for a moment that the worst has happened in your marriage, and divorce is in your future. You realize that there’s no saving the relationship. Perhaps the divorce is going to be acrimonious, or maybe you’re going to at least attempt to keep things civil.
Either way, you’re going to have to go through a series of steps to get to a place where you might both make a clean break from one another. The discovery process is one of those.
You might know the term “discovery” in another context. There’s also a discovery process before a criminal trial when the defense attempts to find out what documents and other evidence the prosecution will use against them.
The divorce discovery process is similar. The lawyers for both parties meet to discuss several matters, most of them financial.
Let’s talk about some of the documents that might come to light during a divorce discovery process and the impact that each might have.
If you’re hiring an Arizona divorce attorney or one in a different state, as the case may be, one thing you should know is that a divorce settlement is always better to reach than a trial situation. If both sides are willing to split up their assets in a way they can both agree with, the discovery process will not be necessary.
If the two of you are at each other’s throats, that’s usually when the discovery process will have to happen. Maybe one spouse cheated, or perhaps both did. Each one of you is going to try to get every dollar and possession you can from the other.
During the discovery process, your joint or individual tax records are going to prove a great deal about your income. If one spouse or the other typically makes more money, the tax records will indicate that, assuming that the individual in question is not concealing any taxable income.
You can often use the tax records when you’re trying to demonstrate to the judge how much money your spouse makes in a year. That will come in handy if you’re trying to maintain the lifestyle to which you’ve accustomed yourself.
Property Ownership Documents
You’ll also want to see any property ownership records during the discovery process. For example, maybe you own a house together, and you’ve paid off the mortgage. Your soon-to-be-ex wants to keep the property.
If so, to satisfy you, they might have to pay you half of the home’s market value. You might hire a home evaluator to determine fair market value, and then your ex must pay you that amount in cash. If you two can’t agree over who gets the house, you might have to sell it and split the money.
If you own vacation property, you’ll need to see that documentation to determine who gets that. Maybe one of you can keep your main house, and the other can keep the vacation property if their value is approximately the same.
Bank statements are critical in divorce proceedings. They are a strong asset indicator since their total will represent a lot of the ready cash that either of you has.
If your spouse has a good deal of liquidity, and their bank records demonstrate that, they will be in an optimal position to pay you off if they want to keep the house, your vehicles, vacation property, and so forth. If either or both of you are cash-poor, that’s going to matter as you try to hash out who gets what.
In many states, a judge will grant a spouse a lot more if the other one cheated on them or treated them shabbily in some other way. During the discovery phase, communication records might demonstrate that behavior.
For example, during the discovery phase, one lawyer might demand that the other spouse turn over their text messages if they can establish infidelity. They might look for email records that prove that the spouse is trying to hide assets or cash, anticipating the divorce was coming.
During the discovery phase, the lawyers might try to obtain child support expenditure documents and various sworn statements as well. Anything that they can use to one spouse’s advantage, they’ll want to locate and utilize.
These proceedings can get very ugly sometimes. Hopefully, you’ll be able to keep your head and conduct yourself with dignity, even as you try to extricate yourself from the situation.