Divorce is difficult for anyone, but a contested divorce can be particularly challenging. During a contested divorce, couples reach a point where they cannot agree on the divorce terms. Issues like child custody, spousal support, and property division can create an impasse, preventing couples from reaching a settlement agreement. When couples are deadlocked and cannot reach an agreement, a litigated divorce case goes to court and undergoes what is known as the discovery process. Keep reading for more information about how the discovery process can derail the divorce timeline.
Understanding Uncontested and Contested Divorces
In the state of Maryland, there are two types of divorce, contested and uncontested. Here's a breakdown of what each means:
- Uncontested Divorce: If both parties agree to all terms of the divorce, then it is considered an uncontested divorce and may not require a court hearing. These cases are typically much shorter in length than contested divorces.
- Contested Divorce: When spouses can't agree on the terms of their divorce, they must file for a contested divorce. A contested divorce requires attending a court hearing where issues like child custody, support, and visitation will be discussed. Contested divorces usually take longer to resolve than uncontested ones.
It's important to understand which type of divorce you're filing for, as it can significantly impact the length and complexity of the process.
What to Expect During the Discovery Process of a Contested Divorce
The discovery process is a legal procedure that allows both parties to gather information about each other so each side can work to build their case. The discovery process involves requests for documents, interrogatories (written questions), depositions (oral testimony under oath), and requests for admissions.
Here's more information about what you should expect during each stage of the discovery process:
- Requesting Documents: During this stage, each party requests documents from the other side that may be relevant to the case. These documents usually include a mixture of financial records, tax returns, employment records, and more. The goal is to understand each party’s financial situation better and have facts available that provide a clearer picture of total assets to reach a fair settlement.
- Interrogatories: Interrogatories consist of written questions that one party sends to the other with the expectation that they will answer them honestly and fully. These questions can cover a wide range of topics related to the divorce case, including finances, child custody arrangements, and property division.
- Depositions: A deposition is an oral testimony given under oath by one party or witnesses in front of an attorney or court reporter. During a deposition, attorneys for both sides will ask questions related to the divorce case to gain more information about each other's positions.
- Requests for Admissions: Requests for admissions are written statements that one party asks another party to admit or deny. These statements are used as evidence at trial if they are not admitted or denied by either party.
Once all these steps have been completed, both parties will have gathered enough information about each other's positions to make informed decisions about how they want their divorce settlement to look. If couples still can’t reach an agreement, the case will proceed to trial, where evidence will be presented before a judge who will ultimately decide on how everything should be settled.
How the Discovery Process Can Negatively Impact the Divorce Process
While the discovery process is a necessary step in a contested divorce, it can also have negative impacts on both parties involved.
Here are some of the potential negative effects:
- Emotional Distress: The discovery process can be emotionally draining as it involves delving into personal and sensitive information about each other's lives. Delving into these feelings can lead to anger, resentment, frustration, and depression.
- Time-Consuming: Discovery can be a lengthy process that could take several months or even years, depending on the case's complexity.
- Financial Burden: The cost of discovery can add up quickly since it requires hiring attorneys and experts to help gather evidence and prepare for trial.
- Strained Relationships: The adversarial nature of the discovery process can create tension between both parties or exacerbate an already fractured and fraught relationship. If a divorcing couple has children, the discovery process could strain the parental relationship beyond repair.
- Public Exposure: In some cases, information that comes out during the discovery process may become part of the public record, which could be embarrassing or damaging to one or both parties involved.
It's important for those going through a contested divorce to understand these potential negative impacts so they can prepare themselves emotionally and financially before entering this phase of the legal proceedings. It's also important for couples to do the work necessary to negotiate a fair settlement with as little negative impact on each other and any children as possible.
Contact Matthew Penick Law Today
The discovery process can be overwhelming and stressful, but it’s required when litigating a contested divorce. It’s important that those going through this process work closely with their attorneys so that they understand what’s happening every step along the way while remaining committed to finding common ground wherever possible rather than proceeding to trial since it could result in further stress and costs. If you’re considering a contested divorce, call Matthew Penick Law today at (410) 618-0863 to schedule a consultation.