Discovery is a process that is conducted in almost all family law cases, including divorce and child custody. Discovery is the process during which each side requests and exchanges information, including but not limited to financial documents, copies of photographs, and lists of potential witnesses. A discovery request does not have to request information that is immediately admissible in court. Instead, a discovery request may ask about or for anything that may reasonably lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, pursuant to California civil procedure rule 2017.010. This means that both sides have wide latitude on the sorts of information that they can ask for. Especially in child custody cases or long-term marriages, a wide variety of information may be requested, as a wide variety of information may ultimately be relevant to admit at the final hearing. However, this does not give both sides carte blanche to request every detail of the past.
Whether a discovery request is overly intrusive will depend in large part on the subject matter of your case. If, for example, you are involved in a child support modification suit, then asking for twenty years of medical records may be totally irrelevant. However, it may be very relevant if you are claiming an inability to work due to an ongoing medical condition.
If you receive a discovery request that is inappropriate, there are ways to deal with it. Your attorney may file an objection to a request. There are several different types of objections, including that a request is irrelevant to the subject matter. It should be noted, however, that a “fishing trip” for evidence is allowed in discovery requests, so long as the requesting party can articulate what he or she is “fishing” for. An attorney may also object that a discovery request is “burdensome and oppressive.” This means that the request was specifically made in order to create an undue burden on the producing party. In the case of twenty years of medical records, this could be an accurate objection, as medical records can be voluminous and costly to produce. It is possible that the possible value of the records is outweighed by the enormous cost and trouble of actually obtaining a copy.
Discovery is an essential part of a case, but you need an experienced attorney to help protect you from intrusive requests. If you have questions about discovery or court procedure, contact us today at (619) 800-0384 for a meeting.