RI Divorce Discovery: Interrogatories, Request for Documents, Etc.

An experienced RI divorce lawyer answers numerous questions about domestic law practice in Providence Family Court. What is “Discovery” in Rhode Island Divorce? How do I get information about my Spouse? How do I get information about Marital Assets and Debts? In some cases, husband or wife may be hiding assets or stashing away money in a safe deposit box. In other cases, one spouse is completely unaware of the nature and extent of the marital estate.

Rule 26 through 37 of the Rules of Domestic Relations procedure relate to the discovery process in RI Family Court. In 2014 the RI Supreme Court revised the rules substantially.

You should contact a Rhode Island divorce lawyer to get advice on how to handle your RI divorce case

Discovery is a process by which the parties get information or admissions from their spouse. Parties can at their option proceed with “discovery”. Discovery is most important and perhaps crucial in a case in which a spouse is unaware of the extent of the marital assets and estate. Discovery can be a useful to obtain documents or other tangible evidence that is needed for settlement or trial. RI discovery can also be used to obtain admissions of certain allegations.

It is immoral for a person to lie about cheating or an affair to their spouse. It is not illegal or a criminal act for a person to lie to their spouse about an affair. If a person lies under oath either in testimony or in a written document under oath, they may be committing perjury. If a Rhode Island Family Court judge believes a party is lying under oath there could be sanctions. This may include a referral to the Rhode Island Attorney General for prosecution. Most incidents of lying in Rhode Island Family Court are not prosecuted.

interrogatories and request for admission

Many Rhode Island Divorce Attorneys use interrogatories or request for admissions to force the other party to state under oath whether they had an affair and the extent and details concerning the extra-marital affair / infidelity / cheating.  There are several discover tools that can be used by Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers: Request for Production of Documents, Interrogatories, Request for Admissions, Depositions, Subpoena Duces Tecum, etc.

Should I take the Deposition of my spouse in a RI Divorce?

A Deposition is when a party usually through their lawyer, asks their spouse questions under oath in front of a court reporter. Depositions are usually held in the conference room of a Law Office. In Rhode Island Family Court, a party must obtain leave of court / permission from the court in order to take a deposition. Motions to take deposition of the other party are almost always granted by Rhode Island Family Court Judges. Depositions are a powerful yet expensive discovery tool.

A deposition can be very effective because the Rhode Island divorce 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 Rhode Island Attorney can do to help their clients answer the questions during a deposition.

Depositions can be very expensive because the Court reporter transcript could cost several hundred dollars. Also, the Family Law attorney taking the deposition will need perhaps several hours to prepare for the deposition. Both Rhode Island Divorce Lawyers will be required to attend the deposition, which could take up to several hours. Depositions are usually better ways to get information about sensitive topics rather than written interrogatories.

What are Request for Admissions in Rhode Island divorce?

Requests for Admissions when used properly can be a very effective Discovery tool in a Rhode Island Divorce. Request for admissions are written requests usually prepared by the attorney. 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, the allegations will be deemed admitted.

Interrogatories-what are they? Are they worth the time and effort? What types of questions can be asked?

Interrogatories are written questions that a party may sends to the other party. Each side is allowed up to 32 interrogatories. Interrogatories can be helpful in obtaining a description of assets, allegations that will be made or other information.

The information requested in Interrogatories can run the gamut from Child Support to marital infidelity. The Information requested often, includes, child custody issues, child visitation, disability and life insurance, criminal history, drug and alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, alimony, health insurance issues, real estate issues, estate planning and trust issues, Rhode Island Personal Injury Claims, trust and estate info, domestic violence / restraining orders, valuation of assets, mental health history and any Rhode Island Family Law matters.

Interrogatories answers are usually partially written and also reviewed by your spouse’s lawyer. Interrogatories must be answered in the time frame set by the Rhode Island Domestic Court Rules. There are some limitations to the usefulness of the information and answers received because the answers are usually written by your spouse’ Attorney.

Subpoenas duces tecum

A Subpoena is essentially a court order to bring certain documents to court. A Subpoena Duces Tecum can be very effective in obtaining documents from third parties such as bank records, stock records, employment and wage records and other documents.

Should I send request for production of documents?

Request for production of documents is 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 including: pension plan documents, 401k records, retirement accounts, health insurance records, stock accounts, estate planning documents, credit card debts, bank statements, real estate documents etc.

RI discovery case law:

Supreme Court of Rhode Island. Kathleen M. GORMAN v. Daniel W. GORMAN. No. 2003-611-Appeal. Decided: August 26, 2005 Present:  WILLIAMS, C.J., GOLDBERG, FLAHERTY, SUTTELL, and ROBINSON, JJ. Paul P. Pederzani III, Warwick, for Plaintiff. Joseph E. Rothemich, Coventry, for Defendant.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island. Rosemarie ZAINO v. Frank N. ZAINO. No. 2000-74-Appeal. Decided: March 03, 2003 Present:  WILLIAMS, C.J., LEDERBERG, FLANDERS, and GOLDBERG, JJ. Colleen Crudele, Steven N. Ortoleva, for Plaintiff. Lauren E. Jones, Providence, Jeremy W. Howe, for Defendant.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island. Rosemarie RUFFEL v. Lance RUFFEL. No. 2004-6-Appeal. Decided: June 28, 2006 Present:  WILLIAMS, C.J., GOLDBERG, FLAHERTY, SUTTELL, and ROBINSON, JJ. Lauren E. Jones, Esq., Providence, for Plaintiff. Robert S. Parker, Esq., Providence, for Defendant.  OPINION

What are the penalties for refusal to comply with discovery?

““It is fundamental that the Fourteenth Amendment requires notice and an opportunity to be heard before one is deprived of his property or liberty.”  Fricke v. Fricke, 491 A.2d 990, 997 (R.I.1985).   In the present case, however, Paul’s due-process rights were not violated because he had ample notice that sanctions would be imposed if he did not comply with the discovery requests at issue. Moreover, Paul had adequate opportunities to be heard on the issue of why he would not produce the financial records during trial and before sanctions were imposed.   The record reveals that the original request for the relevant records was made in January 2002.   During the course of the trial, on March 26, 2003, the general magistrate ordered Paul to produce the records within three weeks, and Paul’s counsel indicated that he would produce the records “forthwith.”   On the same day, an order was entered indicating that Paul would suffer daily sanctions if he refused to comply.   In a June 4, 2003 order, Paul again was reminded of the threat of sanctions for failing to comply with the court orders.   The defendant could have objected or explained at these junctures why he did not produce the records, but he failed to do so.   We therefore see no merit in Paul’s due-process challenge.” Supreme Court of Rhode Island. Kathleen C. VICARIO v. Paul Michael VICARIO. No. 2005-244-Appeal. Decided: June 29, 2006
Present:  WILLIAMS, C.J., and GOLDBERG, FLAHERTY, SUTTELL, and ROBINSON, JJ. Jerry L. McIntyre, Esq., Providence, for Plaintiff. Donald R. Lembo, Esq., North Providence, for Defendant.  OPINION

“Furthermore, we are satisfied that the general magistrate did not abuse his discretion in imposing the sanction.  “Rule 37(b) of the Family Court Rules of Procedure for Domestic Relations provides the court with a smorgasbord of sanctions for situations in which the court is presented with a party’s failure to comply with a discovery order pursuant to Rule 37(a).”  Lembo v. Lembo, 677 A.2d 414, 419 (R.I.1996).   Pursuant to Rule 37, this Court has upheld monetary sanctions for such violations.   See, e.g., Zaino v. Zaino, 818 A.2d 630, 640-41 (R.I.2003);  Lembo, 677 A.2d at 419.   We will “reverse a trial justice’s decision to impose sanctions for Rule 37 violations only when we find that he or she has abused his or her discretion.”  Zaino, 818 A.2d at 640 (quoting Lembo, 677 A.2d at 419).” Id.

“In finding that a $10,000 sanction was warranted to offset any additional counsel fees, time lost by Kathleen, and court delays that had resulted from Paul’s conduct, the Family Court noted that Paul had failed to follow its mandates regarding discovery of the financial documents for months and that the court had been “most patient over an extended period of time.”   The general magistrate stressed that Kathleen’s expert witness “had to reassess his testimony all to no avail” because of the violation and that “[t]o this moment the [d]efendant has yet to comply with the Court Order.”   Based on the record before us, which clearly shows that Paul was unwilling to produce the records in a timely manner throughout the entire proceedings, we see no abuse of discretion in this ruling.” Id.

Rhode Island Attorneys legal Notice per RI Rules of Professional Responsibility:

The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer or attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice