Discovery in Divorce Cases

The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure sets out the rules and standards that courts in Colorado must follow when adjudicating civil cases. The Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure govern the court procedure for divorce cases.  Discovery is potentially a part of the pretrial procedure in a divorce case in which each party, or each spouse, can obtain evidence and information from the other spouse.

In divorces cases in Colorado, all parties must first comply with Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2 financial disclosures, regarding the mandatory exchange of financial documents. Towards the beginning of a case, usually within 42 days after the Respondent is served with the paperwork that initiates the divorce case, each party must file with the Court and serve upon the other party what is known as a Sworn Financial Statement, which is basically a financial affidavit that serves as an overview of a party’s financial circumstances. Sworn Financial Statements include things like monthly income, expenses, assets, and debts, and serve to help each party, their attorneys, and potentially the Court reach decisions on important issues in a divorce proceeding such as marital property distribution, child support, and maintenance.

Also pursuant to Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2, each party must serve on the other Mandatory Financial Disclosures, which include things like copies of a party’s income tax returns, credit card statements and other statements reflecting personal debt, overviews of investment accounts, employment benefits statements, retirement plan statements, income documentation, and bank account statements. Like with the Sworn Financial Statement, the idea is that disclosure of all of this information between the parties promotes fair decision-making when it comes to issues in the case, as both parties may then enter into negotiations from even footing, because they have a comprehensive awareness of the other party’s current financial circumstances.

Sometimes, even though the above information has been disclosed, one or both of parties may feel that more information is still needed. If, after seeing the other party’s Sworn Financial Statement and other Mandatory Financial Disclosures, a party feels that they need to see more information and evidence, they can initiate further discovery in the divorce case, pursuant to Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2(f). This further discovery may also cover topics outside of a party’s finances.

Under 16.2(f), as part of the discovery process, a party can serve interrogatories and requests for production of documents on their opposing spouse. Basically, these are requests for the opposing party to either answer questions in writing under oath, produce documents, or both. The Colorado legislature has approved certain interrogatories and requests for production of documents for use in family law proceedings, and these are known as pattern interrogatories and pattern requests for production of documents. Currently, there are thirteen pattern interrogatories and nine pattern requests for production of documents that have been approved for use in the discovery process by the legislature. Additionally, parties can create their own interrogatories and requests for production of documents which have not been pre-approved by the legislature. These are known as non-pattern interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Once served, the party in receipt of these interrogatories and requests is given a certain amount of time to respond. Non-pattern requests can also be objected to for different reasons.

The discovery process during a divorce proceeding in Colorado can be complicated. However, oftentimes all of this information and evidence is needed to be flushed out into the open to ensure that parties are operating and negotiating on an even playing field when it comes to issues in the case. Should you have questions about the discovery process in a divorce case, please feel free to reach out to us anytime.

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