If you are going through a divorce in Massachusetts, you might have heard of the term “discovery”. Discovery is a legal process that allows both parties to obtain relevant information from each other to support their claims and defenses in the divorce case. Discovery can help you and your spouse to have a clear understanding of each other’s financial situation, assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and other factors that might affect the outcome of your divorce.
Discovery starts with what is known as “Mandatory self disclosure rule” which applies to both parties. This rule, also known as Supplemental Rule 410 of the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure, requires that certain documents be exchanged within 45 days of service of the summons for a divorce proceeding . The purpose of this rule is to promote full and fair disclosure of financial information and to reduce the cost of the divorce.
The documents that must be disclosed under Rule 410 include:
– Federal and state income tax returns and schedules for the past three years
– Pay stubs from each employer for whom the party worked for the past four pay periods
– Documentation regarding the cost and nature of available health insurance coverage
– Statements for the past three years for all bank accounts, securities, stocks, bonds, notes, obligations, certificates of deposit, 401K statements, IRA statements, and pension plan statements
– Copies of any loan or mortgage applications made, prepared or submitted by either party within the last three years
– Copies of any financial statement and/or statement of assets and liabilities prepared by either party within the last three years.
After a party has complied with Rule 410, that party can seek further information through other discovery methods such as:
– Interrogatories: These are written questions that one party sends to the other party, who has to answer them under oath.
– Depositions: These are oral questions that one party asks the other party in person, who has to answer them under oath. A court reporter records the questions and answers. Depositions can also be used to take testimony and obtain documents from people who are not parties to the case but have information that is relevant to the divorce.
– Requests for Admissions: These are written statements that one party sends to the other party, who has to admit or deny them under oath.
– Requests for Production: These are written requests that one party sends to the other party, asking them to provide documents or other tangible things for inspection and copying.
– Requests for Permission to Enter Upon Land: These are written requests that one party sends to the other party, asking them to allow them to enter their property and inspect relevant conditions or objects.
Discovery can be very useful in a divorce case, as it can help you and your spouse to:
– Negotiate a fair settlement agreement on issues such as alimony, child support, child custody, and property division.
– Prepare for a trial or a hearing if you cannot reach a settlement agreement.
– Avoid surprises or hidden assets that might affect your rights or interests.
– Resolve any disputes or misunderstandings that might arise during the divorce process.
However, discovery can also be time-consuming, costly, and stressful, especially if one party is uncooperative, dishonest, or abusive. Therefore, it is important to have an experienced Massachusetts divorce attorney by your side who can guide you through the discovery process and protect your rights and interests.