Understanding the Legal Procedures in a Texas Divorce
How Can I Get Information in My Texas Divorce Case?
The first step to dividing assets in a divorce case is to identify the assets. In some cases, this is the easiest step in the process. However, in cases where assets are kept from one of the spouses, this step can be difficult. In most cases, both spouses will be required to complete and sign under oath an Inventory and Appraisement. The Inventory is simply a complete listing of all of the assets and debts of the spouses, both community property and separate property. In some cases, this is all the discovery that is done, along with informally requesting and providing necessary supporting documents for the assets identified in the Inventory.
There are also several forms of formal discovery that can be utilized by your Dallas divorce attorney to produce necessary evidence. These may include the following:
Interrogatories are written questions from one party to the other. Answers are given under oath and usually must be prepared and sent to the requesting party 30 days after the request. Interrogatories may include questions relating to a party’s employment and salary information, bank accounts, charge accounts, businesses, assets and other personal information.
Request for Production of Documents
Requests for production of documents contain specific requests for certain documents needed for the preparation of a case. Documents requested may include two to five years of bank statements, tax returns, credit card statements, business records, insurance information, financial data, documents supporting separate property claims and any evidence the other party plans to use at trial. In most cases, if a party fails to produce a document when requested, he or she will be prevented from using it in court.
Requests for Admission
Requests for admission are written questions in which a party is asked to admit or deny pertinent facts in the case. For instance, a party may be asked to stipulate that a piece of property is actually the opposing party’s separate property and not part of the community estate, since it was acquired prior to the marriage or during the marriage by gift or inheritance. This is often used to avoid attorney and expert witness fees when a piece of property is clearly not part of the community estate.
A deposition is a more expensive discovery tool that is taken in person and under oath, with a court reporter taking down the testimony. Typically questions about finances, assets, history of the marriage and the children are asked.
Electronic Recordings as Evidence
In family law cases, clients may be motivated to record telephone conversations of their spouses with third parties or access email or voice mail communications. Spouses are increasingly searching for proof of the other spouse’s infidelity or gaining favorable evidence by reading emails, wiretapping the home telephone, eavesdropping on cellular phones, or retrieving records from internet conversations in chat rooms. The legality of these actions, and the use of evidence gathered this way, is a complicated matter. If the retrieved messages are stored on a home computer that allows equal access without passwords to both spouses, there may be no violation of the law.
Federal and state wiretap statutes regulate the recording of telephone and face-to-face conversations and accessing email and voice mail. Both federal and Texas statutes prohibit the electronic interception of a voice communication unless at least one party to the communication consents to it. Improper retrieval of electronic communications may constitute a violation of the law that carries criminal and civil penalties. It is important to talk to your attorney about the legality and complete range of effects before gathering electronic evidence.
Leave No Stone Unturned by Hiring a Top Dallas Divorce Attorney
Though you may believe that your spouse is revealing all of his/her documents and finances, it’s always best to consult with a Dallas divorce attorney to be sure that you have all of the necessary information. Contact our Dallas, Plano or Austin office today.