What Is Discovery In Minnesota Divorce?

In Minnesota, a divorce proceeding is a lawsuit, similar to just about any other district court proceeding.  Minnesota divorce procedures are governed by the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure, which are court rules that regulate all legal proceedings in Minnesota courts.  Additionally, there are other, more specific rules pertaining to divorce proceedings that are set forth in the Minnesota Rules of General Practice. 

In Minnesota court proceedings, including divorce, each party is entititled to obtain any and all information necessary to prove their case to the court.  There are some exceptions (for example, communications between an attorney and client are subject to privilege), but generally speaking each side is entitled to any and all information and documents that either might be relevant, or that might lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

What are some things a party may need to know?  A party may need to know about the other party’s income, their assets, their debts, their employment statuts, their medical status, etc.  Sometimes a party can obtain this information informally.  Sometimes they cannot.  

As an attorney, I often prepare formal requests for discovery.  I can serve written Interrogatories on a party or the party’s attorney.  Interrogatories are written questions that a party is required to answer in writing, under oath.  I will use Interrogatories to obtain basic information about bank accounts, employment history, assets, debts and other information that I need.

I can serve a written Request for Production of Documents.  This requires the opposing party to provide copies of any documents that I ask for, unless they are subject to privilege or unless there is another objection that is allowed under the rules.  I use a Request for Production of Documents to obtain copies of checking and savings account statements, check book ledgers, tax returns (both personal and business) bills, paycheck stubs, bonus check stubs, information about health insurance coverage, information about pension benefits, 401(k) plans, IRA accounts, brokerage and investment accounts, businesses owned by the opposing party, and other documents.

Sometimes I will take an opposing party’s deposition.  A deposition is a formal proceeding that usually occurs in an attorney’s office.  When I take a deposition, I serve notice on the other side requiring them to appear at my office at a particular day and time.  I hire a court reporter.  I convene the deposition and I ask the opposing party questions under oath.  The court reporter makes a written transcript of the questions and answers.  The transcript can be admissible at a court trial.

Sometimes there are third parties who have information.  Sometimes I will serve a subpoena on a bank, requiring a bank officer to appear and produce copies of account records.  Sometimes I will serve a subpoena on someone who has information important to a claim about child custody.

There are other ways to obtain information.  Feel free to call me at (952) 270-7700 for more information.

Daniel Fiskum is a Minnesota divorce attorney who has been practicing since 1992. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has been named a "Super Lawyer" by the Minnesota Journal of Law and Politics. Mr. Fiskum is currently writing a book for attorneys and non-attorneys entitled "The Streetfighter's Guide to Divorce," which is scheduled for publication in May, 2010. Many of his blog entries will appear in the book. You may contact attorney Fiskum directly at (952) 270-7700. His office is located in the Carlson Towers in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The Fiskum Law website is found at www.fiskumlaw.com.

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