Sneaky Divorce Tactics: How to Avoid Discovery in Divorce
Divorce can be a messy and complicated legal process, especially when it comes to divorce discovery. Discovery refers to exchanging information and evidence between spouses as part of the divorce proceedings. The discovery process allows each spouse to investigate the other’s finances and assets to determine a fair settlement.
However, discovery can quickly become contentious, driving up costs and prolonging the divorce. Avoiding extensive discovery may be preferable for couples wanting an amicable, low-conflict divorce. This article looks at how to avoid discovery in divorce and settle your differences directly.
What is Discovery in Divorce, and Why Does It Happen?
Divorce discovery is an investigation into the assets, incomes, expenses, and liabilities of each spouse. It is a routine part of the divorce process in family law. The rationale is that both parties need full financial disclosure to divide assets equitably and determine issues like child support and alimony.
Discovery usually happens after you file for divorce. Either spouse can issue formal discovery requests to the other party to produce specific documents, provide recorded statements, submit to a deposition, or answer written questions (interrogatories). The responses must be served within 30 days.
If your spouse refuses to comply with discovery requests, you can file a motion to compel the court to order them to cooperate. However, this escalates the conflict. The discovery process gives your divorce attorney leverage to negotiate on your behalf. But it can also create acrimony between spouses.
How Can You Avoid Discovery in Your Divorce Case?
Here are some tips on how to avoid extensive discovery in your divorce:
Settle Differences Amicably from the Outset
Ideally, you and your spouse should try to settle your differences amicably when you begin discussing separation and divorce. Be upfront about your finances, assets, and debts. Share bank statements, tax returns, retirement accounts, and other financial paperwork voluntarily. If you can agree to the division of assets, child custody arrangements, and spousal/child support directly, you may not need formal discovery.
Use a Mediator
If direct negotiation fails, bring in a neutral third-party mediator to facilitate compromise and settlement. An experienced divorce mediator can help you and your spouse inventory assets, determine net worth, and divide property fairly without involving the court system. Mediation is cheaper than litigation.
Hire Collaborative Divorce Attorneys
In collaborative divorce, each spouse hires an attorney trained in interest-based negotiation. The attorneys commit to settling out of court. They share information openly to build proposals that meet each party’s core interests. The attorneys cannot go to court if you fail to reach a settlement. This encourages good-faith bargaining.
Seek a Default Divorce
If you have been separated for some time and kept your finances separate, you may be eligible for a default divorce. To get a default divorce, your spouse only needs to file a response to your divorce petition stating they do not contest the divorce. This avoids discovery and litigation.
File an Uncontested Divorce
Like default divorce, an uncontested, no-fault divorce simplifies the process when you and your spouse agree on the terms. You file a joint petition along with a separation agreement outlining the division of assets, support, and custody. The judge approves your agreement, avoiding discovery.
Even if you must do some formal discovery, being proactive and transparent can minimize contentiousness. Tell your family law attorney details about assets, incomes, expenses, debts, and plans for property division upfront. Respond to discovery requests promptly and thoroughly.
Seek Protective Orders
If your spouse’s attorney is aggressive, your attorney can ask the court to limit their discovery requests. For instance, protective orders can prevent access to sensitive health records irrelevant to the divorce. This curtails invasive discovery tactics.
Hiding Assets? Why Attempting to Avoid Discovery is Risky Business
It’s understandable to want privacy during a painful divorce, but dodging discovery can seriously backfire in Minnesota. Some potential penalties include:
- Motion to Compel – If you don’t respond to discovery requests within 30 days, your spouse can ask the court to order you to comply. You may have to pay their attorney fees.
- Contempt of Court – Willfully defying a court order related to discovery can lead to fines or even jail time.
- Adverse Inference – If you improperly refuse to provide evidence, the judge can assume you’re hiding unfavorable facts.
- Loss of Claims – You may be prohibited from making certain arguments or claims about assets and debts if you don’t disclose evidence to support them.
- Case Dismissal – Repeated failures to cooperate with discovery may result in your divorce petition being dismissed.
- Criminal Charges – Destroying or hiding assets during divorce may constitute fraud or tax evasion.
As you can see, avoiding discovery almost always does more harm than good in the long run. An experienced Minnesota divorce attorney can advise you on properly navigating the discovery process.
How Martine Law Can Help with Discovery Requests
Going through discovery without a qualified Minnesota divorce attorney is extremely risky. The lawyers at Martine Law have years of experience guiding clients through this complex process.
Here’s how we can help:
- Craft targeted discovery requests to uncover vital facts and evidence you need to get a fair settlement. We won’t overreach just to intimidate your spouse.
- Advise you on properly responding to interrogatories, document requests, and other discovery demands. We’ll ensure you meet deadlines and court rules.
- Review documents and records before production to claim any applicable legal privileges and protect private data.
- Prepare you for depositions with example questions so you appear credible, cooperative, and truthful under oath.
- Obtain subpoenas from third parties to independently verify or refute financial claims made by your spouse.
- Argue to limit intrusive discovery at appropriate times while still building your strongest case.
- Explain your options if your spouse seems to be concealing assets or avoiding discovery improperly.
Going through a divorce in Minnesota means complying with discovery whether you want to or not. Attempting to circumvent the rules seldom ends well. Trust our experienced team at Martine Law to help you navigate discovery effectively while protecting your rights and interests. Contact us today to schedule your case evaluation and learn more about how we can help.