What Is Mandatory Discovery in a Family Law Case?

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Dec 22, 2023 | Content

Discovery is the legal term for information the parties to a lawsuit must share with the family court and with each other. Some discovery is specific to the circumstances of the case, but other discovery is mandatory for all cases of a certain type.

Mandatory discovery in a family law case in Fulton County usually takes place when you open a case and in the early stages. Consult our local attorneys for help understanding and complying with discovery requirements.

Mandatory Discovery Included in Initiation Packet

Family law cases include matters like divorce, child support, and child custody. The case begins when the person initiating the legal proceeding (the petitioner or complainant) files a legal document called a complaint at the office of the Family Court clerk.

The complaint specifies what the petitioner wants—for example, a divorce—and who the other party is. In the case of a divorce, the other party would be the spouse. When someone files a complaint in Family Court, they receive a Domestic Relations Initiation Packet. The packet contains an assignment to a judge, a schedule for the first hearing on the case, and the mandatory discovery materials. It is important to note that this applies only to Fulton County, other counties may have different procedures and requirements.

Both Sides Must Complete Mandatory Discovery

When a petitioner files a complaint in Family Court, Fulton County Local Rule 4000-2 requires them to serve the complaint and other documents on the other party (the respondent). In most cases, the Sherriff serves the documents on the respondent and files a proof of service. The documents contain the Domestic Relations Initiation Packet with mandatory discovery.

Interrogatories

The mandatory discovery includes a list of questions called interrogatories. You must complete the interrogatories in writing.

The questions the interrogatories ask are basic. You must provide identifying information like your name, whether you are known by other names, your address, and age. The questions also ask about your educational and employment background including financial matters that require supporting documentation. If the matter involves children, you will need to describe their health and educational requirements and include information about the cost of supporting them.

Supporting Documents

There is other information that is part of mandatory discovery. You must complete a financial affidavit. This includes providing tax returns, pay stubs, bank and investment account statements, and verification of income. An attorney can help you compile and organize the supporting documents you need.

Discovery Is Due Before the Initial Hearing

The parties must provide the completed mandatory discovery to each other within 30 days from the date the complaint was filed, or 48 hours before the first hearing, whichever is later. Providing the information to a party’s lawyer counts as providing it to the party.

The lawyers and the courts use the mandatory discovery materials to frame the case. The information helps them determine what issues require resolution before a case can proceed.

As the proceedings go on, there may be other information one side requires from the other. The discovery process continues after mandatory discovery is complete. Depending on the issues in the case, continuing discovery might involve requests to produce specific information, more interrogatories, depositions, and witness interviews.

Work With a Family Law Attorney to Ensure Mandatory Discovery Proceeds Smoothly

Mandatory discovery is tedious, but it streamlines a family law case. Providing basic but comprehensive information at the beginning helps everyone focus on the issues that they must resolve.

Making an error or omission in the mandatory discovery phase can put you at a disadvantage. Get help from our local legal advocates when compiling your mandatory discovery in a family law case.


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