By Nathan A. Hacker
The request for production of documents is the type of discovery that you see in the movies where guys are pushing carts full of bankers boxes out of office buildings.
Each box has thousands of pages in it and some poor summer associate at the big law firm is going to have to sift through all of it looking for the three-line email from the chief chemist to the CEO that says, “I think our new chemical is toxic and will cause birth defects if it gets into the water supply.”
No, I can’t name the movie, I think it was Erin Civil Michael… something or other starring any number of Oscar nominated actors.
It typically doesn’t work that way in divorce or other family proceedings, though. Requests for production of documents will be centered on the areas of finance and children, just like the interrogatories examined in my previous article on discovery.
“Documents” is defined not as simply sheets of paper, but photographs, charts, images, recordings, or just about any tangible object. Requests for production of documents can go so far as to be used to allow an appraiser to inspect a classic car or go through a home and provide a value for household goods.
Requests For Financial Documents
Regarding the areas of finance, most requests for production of documents will simply be physical representations to your answers to the interrogatories. This is why it is important to keep the statements as they come in during a divorce proceeding.
While you would answer the question of what is the minimum payment on a credit card by giving a number, you would respond to a request for production of documents by showing the actual statement.
This may seem like it is redundant because it is. That’s the point of it, though. The consistency in the answers gives some indication of reliability in the answers. If there is inconsistency then an inquiry as to why there is an inconsistency should be made, probably through a third-party, or non-party, request.
In general, you will see requests for production and interrogatories at the same time. These requests will often look like:
“Please provide any and all documentation support your response to Interrogatory No. 1.” Or: “Please provide copies of any and all statements in your possession or which you may gain possession of regarding any and all credit card(s) or revolving debt accounts.”
The resulting response to these requests is the same assuming Interrogatory No. 1 is about the credit cards or revolving debt accounts. In either case, if you have saved copies of these statements – or you can go online and print statements off and provide them – these are what you need to do to respond to the above request.
Read Related Article:
Responding To Requests
The request needs to be reasonable. Should the other party be looking for a needle in a haystack, it is appropriate to say it is in one of these boxes, the expense for us to find it is unreasonable, and so you can look through all these bankers’ boxes to find it.
It is highly unlikely though that you will have so many documents related to the matter that your attorney can respond in this matter. Simply having a disheveled office space where you keep your bills isn’t going to cut it either. Nor do you want to turn over that much information to the other side if you can help it. Anything else they may find of note or use would also be fair game.
Should you have the need to respond that the request is overly burdensome, consult your divorce attorney first. Don’t just say that’s too hard to find. Again, if the judge does not agree and orders you to provide it, you could be charged her attorney’s fees for making the argument to compel you to provide the requested documents.
Documents For Children
Regarding your children, there may be requests made to provide insurance paperwork, medical paperwork, schooling paperwork, proof of graduation, marriage, enrollment, photographs, recordings, or anything that may impact your children.
These requests often come when a child is not doing well in school and a modification of child custody is being requested in order to put the child in a different school. Take the following scenario:
Jeremy, your son, is a fourth-grader who has attended the same school since kindergarten. Jeremy is now struggling whereas in previous years he was successful. You have become concerned as to why the sudden downturn in performance and have requested a modification of child custody so that Jeremy can go to a different school or environment where he can thrive.
Without getting into the why and how with the downturn in grades and whether that is sufficient for a modification and whether or not you already have some of the requested items, let’s look at how the request for production can assist with your stated goals.
Request For Production Case Study
First, off keep in mind that you can send out third-party requests i.e. to the school should the need arise. Second, you need to show that there has been a drastic decrease in Jeremy’s performance in school.
The obvious evidence would be report cards that have been sent home. The not-so-obvious documents would be any paperwork, emails, or voicemails left by his teachers with his mother indicating their concern with the changes they’ve seen.
It could also include anything that Jeremy himself has produced like a picture he drew of himself on a mountain top with a lemon yellow sun, arms raised, and the dead laying in pools of… well, you know how the song goes.
All of these things could point to the how and why, and that it is in the best interest of the child that he have a different surrounding.
When discussing the responses to requests that her divorce lawyer has sent to you and those that you would send in return, do not get bogged down in the fact that what you are requesting is not technically a document since it can still be sought for a wide range of purposes.
Read all the articles in our “Discourse On Discovery” series: