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What Happens During Discovery in a New Jersey Divorce?

When a couple decides to divorce, numerous decisions must be made. They begin to talk about their children. They discuss what to do with the family home. They wonder how they are going to tell their family and friends.

Over the course of the next days, weeks, and months, these decisions are often negotiated with the help of divorce attorneys. But for a divorce attorney to offer valid and insightful legal counsel, they need a comprehensive understanding of the case.

The discovery period in a New Jersey divorce gives both spouses’ attorneys access to personal and financial information about both spouses and the family. This information informs how the attorneys form their cases and strategize for going to trial or negotiating a settlement.

Information Shared During Discovery

Assets, debts, income, business interests, and more are scrutinized during the discovery period. New Jersey Court Rule 5:5-1 governs the discovery process. The discovery process generally takes between 90 and 120 days from the date the divorce complaint was filed. More complex cases can take longer.

Elements in discovery include the following:

  • Case Information Statement (CIS): This statement covers the names and birth dates of both spouses and their children, addresses, employer information, social security numbers, assets, liabilities, and income. In addition, each spouse submits a monthly itemized budget of the expenses for themselves and their dependents.
  • Interrogatories: The attorney of one spouse may require the other spouse to answer a written questionnaire under oath.
  • Notice to Produce Documents: Each attorney can request bank statements, business records, insurance policies, and other documents.
  • Depositions: Either side of the divorce can require the sworn oral testimony of the other spouse, witnesses, or experts. The purpose of the deposition cannot be related to the grounds of the divorce.
  • Request for Admissions: One party can use written questions to ask the other party to admit or deny certain relevant facts.

Other activities occurring during discovery include business valuations, real estate appraisals, psychological evaluations, forensic accountant analysis, and other assessments and examinations.

The Importance of Discovery in the Divorce Process

An effective and valid divorce agreement is impossible without accurate and complete information. The details and facts brought forth during discovery are used as the basis for negotiations, including equitable division, child custody and support, and spousal support. The information gleaned helps attorneys counsel their clients on whether they should work toward a settlement or go to court. The information gleaned during discovery helps the plaintiff and defendant prepare for trial.

Consequences of Providing False Information

If either party is found to have intentionally provided false, misleading, or incomplete information, the offender can be fined or held in contempt of court.

The honest spouse may be awarded a greater share of the marital property to atone for the deception. The offending spouse may be ordered to pay more of the marital debt. If concealed assets are discovered after the divorce is finalized, there are avenues to re-open a divorce case.

Use the Discovery Process to Improve Your Divorce Settlement

No divorce agreement can be fair or just if it is based on inaccurate or incomplete information. At Lane & Lane, LLC, we have helped Somerville & Central NJ families through difficult times, including divorce. Six decades of experience give us the knowledge of how to use the full breadth of discovery to best support our clients.

Experience matters when choosing an attorney to represent you in a divorce action. Learn more about us by scheduling a free consultation. Contact us online or call (908) 259-6673.