This is part 4 of a 5 part series by Rhode Island divorce lawyer, David Slepkow concerning Divorce in RI. This post focuses on the discovery process in Providence Family Court.
After commencing a complaint for divorce and after a party answers the complaint, parties may commence discovery process.
Discovery is an optional process in a Rhode island divorce in which spouses can obtain info concerning their marriage, the divorce cause of action or their assets and liabilities. Discovery is crucial in a divorce in Rhode Island when one spouse is unclear about the nature and value of marital assets and debts. In a Rhode Island divorce, discovery can be useful to obtain documents or other tangible evidence that is needed for settlement or a divorce trial on the merits.
Obtaining admissions of crucial facts
RI discovery tools may be used to obtain admissions of certain crucial previously unsubstantiated allegations. While it is unethical and perhaps immoral for a person to lie about cheating or an affair to their spouse, it is not illegal or criminal for a person to lie to their spouse about an affair. A misstatement or lie under oath could constitute the crime of perjury.
Lying under oath (perjury)
If a Providence Family Court General Magistrate, Magistrate or Associate Justice believes a husband or wife is lying under oath then they could refer the case to the attorney general for
prosecution. It is very unusual for the State of RI and Providence Plantations to bring a criminal perjury cause of action as a result of false testimony in Kent County or Providence County Family Court. Many RI divorce lawyers use request for admissions or interrogatories to force the other party to state under oath whether or not they had an affair and the extent and details concerning the cheating / infidelity / affair.
There are numerous discovery tools that RI child custody and Providence Divorce attorneys utilize to obtain important information. These include: depositions interrogatories, subpoena duces tecum, request for production of documents, request for admissions, subpoenas etc.
Request for Admissions in RI domestic relations cases
Request for admissions can be an extremely powerful tool for Providence Child custody lawyers and East Providence RI divorce attorneys. Request for admissions are written requests to admit or deny certain allegations usually prepared by the divorce attorney, which the other party must reply within a short period of time. If the party does not reply to the request for admissions, within the applicable time frame, the allegation will be deemed admitted.
Interrogatories constitute written question drafted by RI divorce lawyers which they can send to the adverse party. The rules of domestic relations permit husband and wife to each propound up to 32 questions. They can be particularly useful in obtaining a list of property as well as determining allegations that will be made by your spouse. The information sought can run the gamut from child custody allegations, to marital infidelity and may include: child support issues, visitation issues, drug and alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, pension issues, bank account information, alimony, health insurance issues, real property issues, criminal history, valuation of marital assets, mental health history and other family law issues.
Interrogatories must be answered in the time frame set by the Rhode Island domestic Court Rules. Interrogatories answers are usually partially written and a reviewed by your husband or wives’ lawyer. As a result, in some instances they have limited value.
Should I take the Deposition of my spouse in a RI Divorce?
A Deposition is when a spouse through their RI family Court attorney can ask their spouse questions under oath in front of a stenographer. In Providence, Kent, Washington and Newport Family Court, a party must seek permission from the Family Court judge in order to take a deposition. Motions to take deposition of the other party are almost always granted by Family Court Judges.
Depositions are powerful discovery mechanisms. Depositions are powerful because a Warwick or Cranston divorce lawyer can directly ask questions to the deponent, in person, without the answers being filtered by the opposing matrimonial lawyers
Depositions are expensive
However, depositions are a very expensive discovery tools. A deposition usually is effective because the RI family law attorney can ask the other party questions, face to face. The attorney can ask follow up questions and can ask questions in different ways. This is particularly effective if a party is being evasive or less than forthcoming. There is very little the other attorney can do to help their clients answer the questions during a deposition.
Depositions are very costly because the Court reporter’s transcript could cost several hundred dollars. Also the Pawtucket or North Providence divorce attorney deposing the adverse spouse will needs hours to prepare for the deposition. Also, a Barrington, Warren or Bristol attorneys will need to attend the deposition for each spouse, which could take up to several hours. Depositions are more effective ways to garner information then interrogatories.
Request for Production of Documents
Request for production of documents in Rhode Island are a list of requested documents that must be responded to within the applicable time period. I find this discovery tool to be particularly successful in obtaining documents and records concerning: pension plan documents, 401k records, retirement accounts, stock accounts, health insurance records, estate planning documents, bank statements, real estate documents etc.
A Subpoena Duces Tecum can be very effective in obtaining documents from third parties such as wage and payroll records, bank account records, stock records, stock options, employment and wage records and other important documents.