Posts Tagged ‘discovery’

Minimums and Maximums in a Child Custody Case

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

First of all, our office would like to wish you and your loved ones a happy New Year, and we hope your holiday season was a time of relaxation and fellowship with those you care about. The beginning of the year is naturally a busy time for our office, as we receive many calls from both existing and prospective clients reenergized from vacation to pursue their domestic case. When going through a child custody case, there is obviously a minimal and a maximum effort you can put forth. Our office feels that clients should know what these two efforts look like in order to know that their case is being handled with the correct level of diligence.

As you can probably guess, the minimum effort required in a child custody case is filing a petition for custody and a motion for temporary relief. Filing the complaint starts the process, and a temporary hearing is where the judge awards or denies relief and sets forth an order for the parties to abide by until that temporary order is replaced by a more permanent one after the case has been fully heard. Sometimes, this is all effort required, as the parties may find it easy to obey that court order and see no reason to go back to court. However, this is the exception and not the rule. Putting forth full effort in a child custody case requires diving into the discovery process with both feet forward. This starts with the issuance of interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and the noticing of depositions.

Interrogatories are questions about the subject matter of the case that the other side has 30 days to answer in writing. These questions often relate to witnesses, employment of the responder, and explanation of claims found in pleadings. Interrogatories lay the groundwork for a child custody case, and so issuing them is a step in the right direction of pursuing a custody case. Listing witnesses is especially important, because if you do not list a potential witness, that person cannot testify at trial.

Discovery also includes requests for production of documents. The documents sought in this phase of discovery will provide the bulk of the evidence used at trial. These requests often asked for are financial documents such as bank and credit card statements, utility bills to show expenses, and tax returns. Many clients often express reluctance in producing these documents, however an important part of a child custody case is showing that you are able to financially provide for that child. Like witnesses, requesting and disclosing proper documents is very important, because you will waive your right to use them at trial if you do not.

Another helpful discovery option available to you is the well-known tool of a deposition, which is a scheduled interview with the other side in the presence of a court reporter. The advantage of conducting a deposition is twofold. First, it helps your attorney gauge the other side’s reaction to a question in real time, as the other side has no time to prepare an answer as in written discovery. Second, it helps to nail the other side down to a narrative of their case. That story must either be adhered to or later contradicted, which can call into question that person’s credibility.

As with many things in life, in a child custody case you can either put forth the minimum effort required or go beyond that. It may be that filing a petition and a temporary order works out for you and gets you the relief you seek. However, life is messy, and cases as volatile as child custody will most likely require more effort. Engaging in discovery and applying pressure to the other side to match your effort is the best way to come out ahead in a child custody case. If you have questions about what should be done in your child custody case, call the Law Office of Matthew Poole. Our office has the knowledge and experience to give you a complete and honest answer to any domestic law question you may have.

Questions for Your Attorney? Ask Them!

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

A lawsuit can be a confusing process for someone who has never been involved in one. They involve a language totally different than the everyday vocabulary of most people. Attorneys usually expect questions from clients because of the large amounts of questions they themselves had at the outset of their career. Divorce lawsuits are especially stressful, as they delve deep into some of the most well-guarded areas of a person’s life. Knowing what questions to ask your attorney can help very much in cutting that stress down, and to help you make sure your case is in good hands. Here are some examples of questions you should be discussing with your attorney.

Question #1: Have you issued discovery, and what did that discovery request?

Discovery is the part of the lawsuit where attorneys send requests for information to the opposing side to be answered. This often involves interrogatories, which are questions about the case to be answered, and requests for production of documents that may be used as evidence at trial. Discovery is an extremely important part of a lawsuit, as it gives a party the time to possibly object to some requests and to carefully build their case. Asking about the issuance and substance of discovery is a way for you to make sure that the attorney you hired is taking the right steps to build your case.

Question #2: What was included in the pleading?

Pleadings are how you ask the court for the relief you want, and therefore should be done with care and should include every remedy possible. For example, there are twelve grounds for divorce in Mississippi. Asking questions about those grounds can help your attorney know what grounds you may have, which will therefore help in crafting the best pleading possible for your case. It’s your story, so help your attorney tell it.

Question #3: What witnesses should I call to help my case?

The answer to this question from an attorney will most likely be “it depends.” Witnesses may testify to things they have personally seen or heard as well as things told to them. You know better than anyone the people in your life who may be able to help present your case, and your attorney’s past experience may help in discovering other potential witnesses as well. One witness’s testimony can be a huge difference-maker in a domestic case.

Question #4: What documentary evidence should I produce?

One question our office receives from clients almost without exception is “What do you need from me?” This often depends on what the other side asks you to produce. In domestic litigation, common documents requested involve finances and contact between a party and their spouse or child. Your attorney should know what document requests you can object to and which ones you will most likely need to produce to the opposing side. These documents will be the foundation of your case, and you should ask your attorney their plan for building that foundation.

Question #5: What things specific to my case can we ask the court to order?

Every situation in domestic litigation is different, as the experiences, wants and needs of different families intersect in each case. You should be asking your attorney what you could possibly ask the court to order that helps you in your situation. The attorney’s role in this is twofold: the attorney should have a basic idea of what the court will or won’t order while also offering a less emotional presence making the request. When a decision affects your family, you want to make sure it is the right one.

Your attorney’s role in your lawsuit is to help you navigate the rules and procedures of a lawsuit, and asking questions can help you give your attorney all the help they need in building your case, as well as making sure your attorney is properly representing you. Lawyers expect those questions, so ask them! Many lawyers will either know the answer, or admit that they don’t and will find you the answer. In lawsuits, the right questions can be the difference between a good result or a bad one. If you have questions about your domestic case, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. We will be glad to help you in any way possible.