What Is Discovery and Why Is It Important for Your Divorce Case?

May 17, 2024

Importance of Discovery in Civil Proceedings

In litigation, discovery is a crucial part of every case presented to the courts. In civil proceedings, documentation is necessary to support claims. In a divorce, a party may present documentation of income, financial statements, debt statements, medical records, and appraisal reports. To obtain this documentation, discovery requests may be issued directly to the other party.

Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure

The Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure permit discovery to the fullest extent, allowing a party to receive comprehensive information. Discovery is necessary to prevent surprises at trial and to ensure both parties can adequately prepare their claims or defenses. Discovery also helps eliminate delays or unnecessary expenses during a case.

Scope and Proportionality in Discovery

Pursuant to Civil Rule 26, discovery includes any non-privileged information relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Prior to 2020, the rules were narrower, requiring requests to be “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Now, the rules allow requests that are relevant and “proportional to the needs of the case.” This involves considering the importance of the issues, the parties’ access to relevant information, their resources, and the importance of discovery in resolving outstanding issues.

Subpoenas to Third Parties

A party may issue subpoenas to third parties to obtain necessary information. Civil Rule 45 allows subpoenas to be issued to non-parties. However, a party may request the subpoena be quashed, preventing the third party from providing the requested information. The court must quash a subpoena if it requires disclosure of privileged or protected information or subjects a person to undue burden. The court can also consider other reasons to quash the request, balancing the competing interests of the parties and the need for discovery against potential harm from disclosure.

Typical Subpoenas in Divorce Cases

During a divorce, subpoenas are typically issued to banks, financial institutions, employers, hospitals/medical providers, and cell phone providers. They may also be sent to friends or family members of the parties. Requests must still be proportional to the case and not create an undue burden. For example, a subpoena for text messages from the last five years to a party’s friend may be unduly burdensome, while a request for five years of bank statements is generally not, as banks are expected to maintain and produce financial records.

Timeliness and Strategic Planning

Discovery requests, including subpoenas, have specific response deadlines. Therefore, it is crucial for clients or third parties to work with their attorneys to respond timely. Additionally, objections or requests to quash must be timely and comply with civil rules. While discovery can be beneficial to a party’s case, it can also be intrusive and burdensome. Parties should work with their counsel to develop a strategic plan for issuing and responding to discovery.

Contact Our Family Law Office

Contact KJK Family Law Partner Carly Boyd (CBoyd@kjk.com  216.736.7254) today to discuss further.