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Friday, December 22, 2017

What is Discovery?

Written by  Atty. Valerie E. Anias

Discovery is a term used to describe the process that permits each party to obtain evidence related to their case. It usually takes place shortly after a plaintiff files his or her complaint. Maryland rules allow for different forms of discovery. The two most common forms of discovery are Requests for Answers to Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents.

A Request for Answers to Interrogatories is a series of questions that one party serves on another party to be answered. Maryland rules allows for a maximum of 30 questions to be served. There are standard questions involving your income, assets, personal information, etc., and then there are custom questions that will specifically relate to the issue at hand. For example, in a custody dispute there may be a specific question about why one parent refused visitation on certain dates.

A Request for Production of Documents is a series of requests for specific documents that one party serves on another party. In responding to the request, you simply state whether you have the document or will produce the document. In accordance with those responses, you then provide the documents. There is no limit to how many document requests you may ask. Many of these requests are also standard and ask for documents such as your bank statements, communications between the parties, etc. You may also ask for specific questions. For example, if you’ve learned your spouse was cheating on you with another person, you may ask for copies of all communications with that specific person.

Each party has a right to object to any interrogatory or document request, however, there must be a basis for the objection and that reason must be stated. For example, in any case involving children, a party’s income is going to be relevant and necessary for the purpose of establishing child support. If in this example you ask for pay stubs and the other party objects, you will need to take the necessary steps to compel that party to provide their pay stub. Generally, this first involves a letter demanding the production then a Motion to Compel if the production does not occur.

Parties often complain and say that discovery is a “waste of time” or that “s/he already knows this information” or “why do I have to answer this?” However, discovery is important. Discovery allows your attorney to see what sort of items the other party is focusing on and perhaps get a glimpse into their strategy. Interrogatories are also signed under oath and provide an opportunity to get a sworn statement of sorts from the opposing party. Additionally, once everything is on the table it sometimes becomes easier to have a more honest settlement discussion

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