What Information Gathering Tools Are Available To My Lawyer?

Many of our clients are worried about the fact that they believe their spouse is hiding assets or won’t provide the information necessary to move a case along. The Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure give divorce attorneys a series of tools that allow us to gather information in a number of ways, including:

  • Interrogatories;
  • Requests for Production of Documents;
  • Requests for Admission;
  • Depositions; and
  • Subpoenas

The first tool that we utilize involves a series of written questions to your spouse. These are called interrogatories. Your spouse must provide us with written answers to all of our inquiries within thirty (30) days. The answers must be sworn to and signed before a notary. Interrogatories are an effective tool to use in gathering financial information.
In addition to interrogatories, we typically request that your spouse produce documented evidence of your financial situation through a request for production of documents. This will include a request for recent tax returns, bank statements, retirement statements, brokerage account statements, and any other items that may provide information that will be useful to us in ascertaining the values of various assets that will be divided.

As the case progresses, we always hope to narrow the issues for trial. One of the tools at our disposal for doing so is called a request for admission. These are questions that are framed in a “yes or no” format, asking your spouse to either admit or deny certain things. Items that are admitted by your spouse will have little, if any, time devoted to them at the trial. This is an effective tool for reducing the length of a trial and, therefore, the costs associated with a trial.

In addition to written discovery, we sometimes take the deposition of your spouse. Typically, depositions are reserved for cases in which your spouse has provided vague or evasive answers to our written discovery. A deposition involves asking questions of your spouse, who is placed under oath by a court reporter and recorded.

The benefits of a deposition are plentiful. While litigants have much time to think about the precise manner in which they want to respond to written requests, they are not afforded the same luxury during an impromptu inquiry on certain issues. The testimony offered by your spouse is given the same weight as testimony offered in the courtroom. In other words, if they contradict themselves in the courtroom, we will use their earlier testimony as impeachment material.

Finally, we frequently use subpoenas to gather information and documentation from third parties. This may include credit card companies, mortgage lenders, realtors, appraisers and others. However, in divorce court, subpoenas are rather rare. Pursuant to the Rules of Civil Procedure, we must afford your spouse every opportunity to produce the documents requested on their own before a subpoena may be utilized.