Q: My divorce case is pending, and I would like to obtain information from my spouse in preparation for my case. How do I do that?
A: “Discovery” is the process you may use to obtain information in preparation for your pending divorce case. The Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure provide for a variety of methods of discovery.
Q: What are the main ways to obtain information from my spouse during the discovery process?
A: The main ways to obtain information are: (1) oral depositions; (2) interrogatories; (3) requests for production of documents; (4) requests for admissions; and (5) subpoenas.
Q: What kinds of information may I obtain during the discovery process?
A: Generally, you may obtain information about all matters that are not considered privileged, and that relate to your case. Matters may be considered privileged for a variety of reasons. For example, matters your spouse and your spouse’s attorney discuss to prepare for your spouse’s case may be privileged. Just because the court may not admit certain evidence at trial does not automatically mean that you cannot obtain it through the discovery process. Discoverable information includes all information that might reasonably lead to evidence that supports your case.
Q: What is an oral deposition?
A: An oral deposition is essentially a question and answer session. The opposing party or that party’s attorney asks a person to answer, under oath, questions about the case. The questions and answers are typically recorded by stenograph and sometimes by video. Generally, any person may be asked to submit to an oral deposition.
Q: My spouse’s attorney would like to take my deposition. Who will be there?
A: The following people may be present at your deposition: (1) you (the “deponent”), as the party answering the questions; (2) your attorney, if you have one, who may protect you by objecting to certain questions; (3) your spouse or your spouse’s attorney, who will be asking the questions; (4) any other party and that party’s attorney; and (5) the court reporter, who will be recording every word spoken during the deposition.
Q: What should I know before going to a deposition?
A: (1) Always be truthful; (2) before answering, be sure you understand each question, or ask for clarification if you do not; and (3) you do not need to volunteer information, you only need to answer the question asked.
Q: What are interrogatories?
A: Interrogatories are written questions that you must answer in writing and under oath. You may be allowed to object to any question asked of you, and you may state your objections in writing before, or instead of, responding.
Q: What are requests for production of documents?
A: Requests for production of documents are requests to see documents, including electronically stored information. Such requests typically include requests to see documents relating to your assets and personal background, including information relating to your finances, employment, personal property, and real estate. The attorney can only request those documents that are in your possession, custody, or control. You may be able to object to these requests, and you are permitted to note your objections to each in writing before, or instead of, responding.
Q: What are requests for admissions?
A: Requests for admissions ask you to admit or deny the truth of the matter that is written in the request. You must reply, in writing, to the requests for admissions within whatever time period the request specifies, which cannot be less than 28 days from the date the requests were sent to you. If you do not respond during that time period, the court will treat every request as having been admitted. You may be allowed to object to requests for admissions, and you may note your objections to each in writing before, or instead of, responding.
Q: My attorney and my spouse’s attorney have issued subpoenas. What are subpoenas?
A: Subpoenas are demands for people other than you and your spouse to do the following in connection with your case:
attend and testify at a trial, hearing, or deposition;
produce documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things at a trial, hearing, or deposition;
produce and permit inspection and copying of any designated documents or electronically stored information they possess, or have in their custody or control;
produce and permit inspection and copying, testing, or sampling of any tangible things they possess or have in their custody or control; or
allow certain people to enter property that is in the possession or control of the person to whom the subpoena is sent.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Allison K. Tracey, Esq. with the assistance of Tonya Munce, an OSBA Certified Paralegal, both of whom are with the Columbus law firm of Collins & Slagle Co., LPA.