Discovery in Family Law
Discovery is the process of obtaining information from the opposing party in the course of a lawsuit. Discovery is governed by the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure (Pa. R.C.P.). Rule 1930.5 states that there shall be no discovery in a simple support, custody or Protection from Abuse proceeding unless authorized by court. In order for you to be allowed to send discovery in a support matter, you must get your case deemed complex by the court. Discovery is allowed in alimony, equitable distribution, counsel fee and expense proceedings and in complex support cases without leave of court. The information requested must be relevant to the case pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 4003.1. In divorce, the court gives much leeway as to what is relevant since the factors for equitable distribution allow for broadness.
Formal discovery methods must adhere to the Rules of Civil Procedure and the acceptable methods include interrogatories, depositions, production requests, subpoena to produce things and/or documents, and request for admission. Interrogatories and production request are the most frequently used methods of discovery in divorce cases. Interrogatories are a written set of questions for the other party to answer. A production request lists all the documents a party is seeking. Subpoenas are utilized as well when it is necessary to get information directly from the source in the instance a party does not have it or will not cooperate in turning it over. Due to the expense to the parties for discovery, lawyers will sometimes agree to exchange discovery informally. This generally involves the lawyers deciding what information is relevant and then gathering that information and sending it to the other side in exchange for receiving documentation that they need from the other side that is also relevant.