Request for Production of Documents

Requests for Production of Documents are a type of Discovery Request that is typically sent together with Interrogatories. The request is for the other party to provide documents related to the case to the requesting party. In a divorce or support case, documents that are commonly requested include those showing proof of income, such as paystubs, tax returns, W-2s, and bank statements. In cases involving child custody or visitation, the documents relate to what type of parent the opposing party is. These can include criminal and arrest records, and medical records.

This is a very useful portion of discovery because it does not require having to take the word of the opposing party. There is no limit to how many documents can be requested by either party.

Not every single Request for Production of Documents is appropriate and requires the party to fork over the document. Just as an attorney can object to questions asked in court, an attorney can note their objections to particular document requests as well. For example, if the document is equally available to both parties, then there is no reason why one party should have to do the work to provide it to the other party.

 

Interrogatories

virginia interrogatories

Interrogatories are one of the tools available in Discovery. Interrogatories are written questions that require written responses. The answers provided are treated as though the answering party was testifying under oath inside the courtroom. This means that responses are able to be used as evidence by the other party at trial.

Most attorneys have standard interrogatories for particular types of cases, but the questions can be anything as long as they are relevant and designed to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. In a divorce case for example, the interrogatories can cover many topics. It’s common to ask about financial matters such as bank accounts, assets and debts. If there are children, then there likely will be interrogatories about child custody matters such as specific incidents, the party’s involvement with the child and the party’s mental and physical health. In any type of case, interrogatories can also ask about witnesses that know information relevant to the case.

Not every single interrogatory question is appropriate and requires an answer. Just as an attorney can object to questions asked in court, an attorney can note their objections to particular interrogatory questions.

Each side can only ask 30 interrogatories. If there is more information that either side would like to ask about, they must obtain permission to do so from the court and explain why additional interrogatories are necessary.

The Discovery Process

discovery 1Discovery is a process by which the parties seek information from each other that is relevant to the case. This is a very broad standard, which means that a lot of personal information can be requested in the process, including bank statements, tax returns, and details related to someone’s affair. The point is for each side to have an idea of what the other side may present in a trial in order for each side to best prepare their case. Discovery helps to prevent one side from blindsiding the other during a trial with evidence or a witness that they have not had time to prepare an answer to.

Types of Discovery

There are various types of Discovery, some of which include interrogatories, request for production of documents, admissions, depositions, and subpoenas. We will explore each one in future blog posts.

How long does Discovery take?

Different discovery tools have set timeframes. For example, per Virginia Statute, a party has 21 days to respond to Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents beginning on the date they receive them from the opposing side. If the party does not respond within 21 days, then the requesting party must make one more effort to resolve the issue, which usually means sending a letter saying the responses are overdue and providing one last deadline. If the interrogatories are still ignored, then there are steps that the requesting party can take through the court to get the responses. Eventually, if someone does not cooperate, they can suffer various consequences such as having to pay sanctions, attorney’s fees, and even being barred by the court from presenting any evidence that the discovery asked about!

The process of Discovery can be very lengthy, which means it can significantly add to the cost of a case. However, often the process increases the chances that the case will settle outside of court. It provides each side a glimpse into the other’s case and essentially forces each party to “show their hand.” It’s an extremely important part of the case, even though it certainly isn’t much fun for either side. It is rarely advised to go forward with a trial without first going through discovery.

Guardian Ad Litem

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In child custody and visitation cases, the court often appoints a Guardian ad Litem. The Guardian ad Litem is an attorney whose role is to represent to the court what they believe is in the best interest of the child.

The Best Interest of the Child

In Virginia, the court always makes decisions about children by using the “best interest” standard. This standard includes several factors which must be considered. For example, when a GAL makes a recommendation about where a child should live, they must consider the child’s age and mental condition. An infant is going to have different needs than a teenager. Other factors include the physical and mental condition of each parent, the relationship between the child and each parent, each parent’s ability to work with the other parent, and any history of abuse. The full list of the factors considered can be found in the Code of Virginia.

How Does the GAL Determine What the Best Interest Is?

In order to determine what the best interest of the child is, the Guardian ad Litem must conduct an independent investigation into the case. This means that the GAL will usually schedule a home-visit with each party to see where the child would be spending their time while in that parent’s care. The main goals are to figure out what the child’s wishes are (if the child is an appropriate age), whether the current arrangement is working and is safe, and how the child is doing in general.

GALs typically will obtain medical records and report cards, and will often speak with teachers, counselors or daycare providers. This allows the GAL the opportunity to gather information about the child’s personality as well as their physical and mental state. Your child will probably be asked to meet with the GAL without the parents as well. This can take place in the GAL’s office or in the child’s home.

The GAL’s Role in Court

The GAL is an attorney in court, and can ask questions of either side. The GAL cannot be questioned by either side, and does not testify. Instead, the GAL provides a report that includes what their recommendation is, and what they discovered through their investigation. This report is sometimes written in advance and provided to the parties.

It is very often the case that the judge’s decision will align with the GAL’s recommendation. The attorneys at Commander Law know how to work side by side with the GALs to ensure that they fully understand the ins and outs of the case. We work tirelessly to make sure all of your concerns are heard so that the GAL’s recommendation takes into consideration all of the factors that are important to our clients.

 

How to Prepare for Court

vbjdrAt Commander Law, we try our best to do everything possible to settle our cases outside of a courtroom. Of course, this isn’t always possible and many clients will find themselves unsure of what to expect or how to adequately prepare for their time in front of a judge. Each situation is different and your attorney can help you prepare for the particular facts of your case, but there are some things that any party in a court case should keep in mind.

Be on Time

Or better yet, be early. We have had countless cases that were able to reach an agreement in the hallway of the courthouse instead of having to subject the parties to a trial in front of a judge. This isn’t possible without you being there with plenty of time. If you are late and your case is called, then your first impression with the court is a bad one, and you also risk the judge putting the case on without you! This would mean that the opposing party can say whatever they want and ask for whatever they want without giving you the opportunity to defend yourself.

Be Respectful

The way you say things is just as important as what you say. Remain calm and take your time thinking about what you are going to say rather than reacting emotionally and letting the opposing counsel’s questions rattle you. Judges are watching each party carefully and observing body language and facial expressions as well as listening to tone. Do not roll your eyes, or raise your voice or use anything other than extremely professional language. Your demeanor should be respectful to everyone involved in the case. This also carries over into what you wear. Your appearance should be clean and professional to show respect to the court.

Answer Only What is Asked

Lawyers are trained to pull out the facts that help their particular case and often parties will waste the court’s time by going on unrelated tangents or over explanations on things that weren’t the direct subject of a question. If there is more information that needs to come out, there will be follow-up questions, so do not feel as though you need to lay everything on the table at the first opportunity you get to speak. Judges have to listen to countless cases every week, and do not have patience for people who do listen and provide considered responses and instead are dragging a trial out unnecessarily. Make sure you stick to the facts rather than the emotions or what you think should have occurred. Do not go into back stories unless prompted. And never speak unless you are certain it is your turn.

Listen to your Attorney

Commander Law is here to help you. We have years of experience and we are dedicated to getting you through this difficult period in your life. We will work tirelessly to fight for you, but the best case results happen when the client is committed to working with the attorney and trusting our judgment.