SOME TIPS ON HOW TO RESPOND TO DISCOVERY REQUESTS
The discovery process in a family law matter is a critical aspect. It’s
the formal process of sharing information about each party’s case,
and Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents are the primary
way to seek information. This article offers tips for responding to Interrogatories
and Requests for Production of Documents. Note that these responses are
not limited to documents. It includes any tangible item that is responsive
and includes such things as video and audio recordings; photographs; electronic
media including text messages, email and tweets; articles of clothing;
and any number of other tangible items.
First, be aware of the short deadline for responding to these requests.
It is generally 21 to 28 days if they were served with the Complaint.
Failing to respond on time may result in a Motion to Compel, which is
an additional and unnecessary cost. Also keep in mind that your responses
are very helpful to your attorney in understanding and preparing your
case. It is far better to provide more details or documents than to make
the determination yourself that it is not important or relevant. Experience
has shown that if you aren’t sure, include it; too much information
is better than leaving something critical out.
The Factor Questions
Most Interrogatories and Document Requests are fairly clear as to what
information they are seeking. Where people seem to have some difficulty
is in what we call the factor questions. These are questions that address
the factors, derived from the Code of Virginia or statutes, which the
court will use in determining such issues as spousal support, a deviation
from the child support guidelines, custody and visitation, and equitable
The factor questions in the form of an interrogatory are easier because
you respond with a description. The factor questions in the form of a
document request often present a problem for people in knowing what to
provide. While some words may be necessary to explain the item provided,
the response should not be a repeat of what was provided in your interrogatory.
Emphasis should be on providing tangible items such as photographs, videos
or DVDs, email or text messages between the parties and others, school
records for minor children, or documents relating to any extracurricular
activities of children.
A general tip for all document requests, especially when providing such
things as bank statements, credit card statements and even email, is that
all pages need to be provided. When pages are numbered, it is not acceptable
to provide only page 1 even if pages 2 and 3 have no discernable relevant
information. Not providing all the pages always raises questions from
opposing counsel about the apparent missing pages.
Lastly, the most important tip for all responses to discovery is to speak
with your attorney’s paralegal as soon as you receive the requests.
The paralegal can assist you to better understand exactly what opposing
counsel is asking and will also help you prepare appropriate responses
to those confusing factor questions.