Family law 101: Divorce words you should know

After you have filed for divorce and perhaps had your “Temporary Orders” entered or approved, you will enter the next phase of divorce, called “Discovery”.  Be ready to become very involved in this process and work hard to help your attorney.  You will be asked questions and asked to provide documents which will help your attorney work toward resolving your divorce.

Discovery

Discovery is a legal term referring to the gathering of information needed to “discover” information that may be helpful to your case. There are several ways this process can be fulfilled.  The first two important items you will need to prepare are your Rule 410 documents and your Financial Statement.

Massachusetts Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 410: Mandatory Self Disclosure  Within 45 days from filing or the date of the summons, each party to a divorce must deliver certain documents for the last three (3) years to the other party.  These documents include:

  • State and Federal tax returns
  • All bank statements held individually or jointly and for the benefit of minor children
  • Four (4) most recent pay stubs from each employer for whom the party worked
  • Documentation of the cost and nature of available health care insurance coverage
  • Documentation of all securities, stocks, bonds, notes or obligations, certificates of deposit, 401K’s, retirement accounts, pensions, even if held for the children and any accounts listed on your Rule 401 Financial Statement
  • Copies of any loans, mortgages or mortgage applications prepared or submitted within the three (3) years prior to the filing of the complaint for divorce
  • Financial statements or statements of what you own and owe

All documents must be supplemented as material changes occur during the progress of the case.

Financial Statement

Your Financial Statement is the most important document that will be filed with the Court in connection with your case.  The Financial Statement usually outlines the financial picture of a case.  Many times, it is the primary source of information upon which a Judge bases his or her decisions, or the basis upon which settlements are reached.

It is imperative that you take your time and review each item.  You will be asked to update this information many times throughout the course of your case.  Attention to detail is crucial.  The more time and effort you dedicate to ensuring the accuracy of your Financial Statement, the less time your attorney will need to review this document with you, reducing the cost to you (in legal fees) of reviewing, updating and filing this statement.

Interrogatories

These are questions which you must answer truthfully under oath.  Your attorney will review all of your answers and make objections where appropriate.

Request for Production of Documents

These are requests for documents, other than those provided in your Rule 410 disclosures, that your spouse would like you to provide.  Your attorney will review all of the documents you provide and advise you of objections where appropriate.

Subpoena and Subpoena Duces Tecum

These are tools used in discovery to get records from witnesses and record keepers, which may be important to your case.  Often the “Keeper of the Records” for a certain business may be subpoenaed in the form of a deposition to produce records.  These records are most often provided without the need for a deposition.

Deposition

This term refers to the oral testimony (under oath) that is reduced to writing, of a party or a witness.

Motions

During the course of discovery, motions may be “filed” with the Court by your attorney or your spouse’s attorney.  When a motion is “marked for hearing,” you (and your attorney) generally must appear before the court.  A motion can be a costly process, as your attorney will have to prepare for court, go to court, and either present the motion or defend it on your behalf.

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