In Wisconsin and around the country, the discovery process begins in divorce cases soon after one or both of the spouses involved file the initial petition. During discovery, divorcing spouses share information and documents dealing with their personal and financial situations. Documents that are commonly shared include bank and financial statements, lists of assets, investments and debts, property deeds and business reports.
How information is requested
The purpose of discovery is to give divorcing partners the information they will need to identify the assets that make up the marital estate and conduct productive property division, alimony and child support negotiations. In addition to requesting documents, divorcing spouses or their attorneys can submit lists of questions known as interrogatories. They can also use what are known as requests for admission to get the other party involved to respond on the record to allegations contained in the divorce petition, such as adultery.
Depositions give attorneys the opportunity to ask divorcing spouses questions in a formal setting and with a stenographer present. This can provide valuable clues about how the individuals will conduct themselves in court if efforts to reach an amicable divorce settlement are unsuccessful. Depositions in divorce cases usually only last for a few hours, but they can drag on for a week or longer when complex financial arrangements are involved and attorneys believe that assets may be being concealed or misrepresented.
Preparing for depositions
Experienced family law attorneys may take steps to ensure that their clients are prepared for depositions so that they remain calm and composed during the proceedings. Attorneys could counsel divorcing spouses to be honest as efforts to mislead will likely make the situation worse. However, they may also advise them to only answer the questions asked and refrain from providing additional information.