How do you feel about paperwork? Some of us like to dive right in and get it done. But many of us are not so disciplined: We tend to put off dealing with paperwork for a while. Sometimes, we put off dealing with it for a long while. But if you’re getting divorced, you’d better be prepared to deal with a lot of paperwork. And under new rules that went into effect this year, you won’t be able to put off dealing with paperwork. So let’s look at the new discovery rules in Texas Divorce and how they will impact you and your divorce.
What Is Discovery?
The discovery process is governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, or TRCP. The discovery period typically continues for up to 30 days before the trial date.
Why Does Texas Family Law All for Discovery?
The discovery process has many benefits. The main one is to help the attorneys for each side prepare their case. Each party can see the evidence the other side plans to present.
Discovery has other benefits as well. For battling spouses, the process can serve as a “cooling off” device. You may think, “I’m taking him for everything he’s got,” or “she’s not getting one penny from me.”
The process can encourage parties to reach a settlement without the time and expense of a trial. In some cases, it may even prompt the spouses to reconsider their decision to separate.
What Are the New Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce?
The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure introduced several revisions to the discovery and disclosures process this year. However, we’ll focus only on those that are most relevant to divorcing couples.
Previously, a responding party did not have to provide the discovery documents until the other party’s attorney formally requested them. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 194.2 requires that each party provide the required disclosures in writing to the other party without waiting to receive a formal request.
This means you have to disclose certain information as soon as someone involved in the lawsuit (typically the defendant) files a document in response to the initial filing for divorce. The responding party usually files an answer, waiver of service, or countersuit.
Rule 194 also states that for most civil suits, a party must make initial disclosures within 30 days after the day of filing.
What Information Will I Have to Provide in the Discovery Process?
Under the updated required initial disclosures, you (or your spouse) must provide a copy or written description of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things in your control that may support your claims.
This includes documents tax returns, pay stubs, documents pertaining to real estate, pensions, retirement plans, profit-sharing, insurance policies, and bank statements.
In addition, if alimony or child support will be an issue, these also are important. The court now requires the parties to provide documents regarding medical and health insurance. Of course, the initial disclosures also include the address and telephone number of each party.
What Other Information is Required in the Initial Disclosures?
You also are now required to provide the name, address, and telephone number of persons having knowledge of relevant facts. Any witness statements available also must be provided.
Also, if you plan to include allegations of physical or mental abuse, you will be required to provide copies of relevant medical records. Alternatively, you may provide authorization permitting the disclosure of such medical records and bills.
Why Were the Rules of Discovery in Texas Divorce Changed?
The new rules help the courts be more efficient and cost-effective. Now, the discovery process can start almost immediately. This helps lawyers prepare their cases, and helps get cases to settlement—or trial—a little quicker.
In addition, the changes bring the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure into better alignment with both the Texas Government Code and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
How Do the New Initial Disclosure Rules Help Divorcing Couples?
In addition to helping make the courts more efficient and cost-effective, the rule changes benefit divorcing spouses, too. For example, if you are a procrastinator, the new rules push you to get moving.
The new rules also help you if your spouse is a procrastinator. Some spouses may drag their feet for financial reasons or out of spite. These rules help reduce the likelihood of that happening. In addition, if your spouse is cooking up some false information about your wealth and debt, you’re going to find out about it sooner.
Do I Have to Comply with the New Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce?
Generally, the new discovery rules about Texas divorce apply to everyone. However, there are some exceptions. If both parties agree to waive the rules about initial disclosures, you may not have to comply.
In addition, you may ask the judge to modify the rules. But the court is under no obligation to honor your request. Moreover, this is extra work for the attorney—and probably more cost for you. Read our recent blog about Contempt of Court Consequences.
What If I Don’t Understand the New Texas Discovery Rules?
Don’t worry if you don’t fully understand all this. An experienced family law attorney will be able to advise you on how the new requirements apply to your case.
Worried You Won’t Be Able to Comply with the New Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce?
Why these new rules about initial disclosures are very strict, you should not view them as a barrier. Even if you don’t have a single document in hand, you can still start the divorce process. For example, we offer a free case consultation. We also can advise you on the details for gathering and submitting the necessary paperwork.
The main thing to know is this: Whether you are the person initiating the divorce or the responding party, you’re probably going to be required to gather a lot of documentation. And the sooner you get those documents to your attorney, the quicker your divorce can proceed. (Another way to speed things up: Be prepared to compromise.)
Family Law Attorneys Who Can Help You With Your Divorce from the Initial Consultation to the Discovery Process to the Final Settlement
Family law is personal law. It often involves things that are very important to you in your life, including your marriage, your financial security, and your children. That’s why it’s so important to have the right law firm represent you.
Maynard Law Firm, PLLC, has years of experience in family law. We have expertise in divorces, high net worth divorces, child custody cases, and probate law. We also are experts in business law. Our attorneys can guide you through the legal process with knowledge and compassion. And we will work to help you successfully end this chapter of your life and move on with the next.
For a free case consultation, contact us today or call 817-335-9600.