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From Hollywood to Missouri, What Should I Know About the Discovery Process in My Divorce Case?

kim sep from kris.jpgIn recent news, Kim Kardashian has requested that her divorce from NBA star player Kris Humphries be expedited, due primarily to the fact that she is due in July with Kanye West’s child. In Missouri, such a request would not be considered by the courts. In fact, Missouri family courts generally delay granting a divorce to a couple when the wife is pregnant. This is done mostly for the sake of judicial economy, so that both the paternity of the unborn child and the divorce can be finalized at one time.

Kardashian is claiming that Humphries and his attorney are dragging out the discovery process in their divorce case, while Humphries claims he is not available for depositions until May or June due to his basketball schedule. In light of the fact the parties were only married for 72 days, it seems that Kardashian is particularly frustrated that the divorce has now been pending since October 2011. It was reported that Kardashian also made Humphries sign a prenuptial agreement in order to protect her substantial wealth. Although prenuptial agreements are often helpful in resolving issues for a couple facing divorce, they can sometimes be deemed not enforceable and a spouse can request that the court not honor the agreement. In such case, there would need to be considerable discovery completed on the case just like any other divorce to make sure that an equitable property division is granted by the court.

What are my discovery options in Missouri?

Missouri Rules Of Civil Procedure 56 through 59 govern discovery procedure in Missouri. In terms of what this general discovery process looks like in Missouri, one option is oral depositions, where each party’s attorney takes the deposition of the other party. Said deposition is sworn to and recorded by a court reporter and can be used as evidence at trial. Depositions usually include a broad range of questions about the parties’ relationship and marriage, along with questions regarding their background, employment, expenses, conduct, property division, and other issues. Such depositions can take several hours to complete.

Usually a lower cost option is for parties to issue written discovery to each other. Written discovery can include interrogatories, request for production of documents and request for admissions. Just like depositions, written discovery responses are admissible as evidence at trial. Interrogatories are typically a series of questions issued to an opposing party over a broad range of material concerning the marriage, very much like the questions asked at a deposition. Meanwhile a request for production of documents is where a spouse requests that the other spouse produce actual documentation to be used as evidence. This often includes tax returns, bank statements, correspondence between the parties, pictures, and other relevant materials. Another option is the request for admissions, which puts forth statements to another party who must then admit or deny each statement. These statements could include admission of marital misconduct, such as cheating or hiding money, as well as other items that one spouse wants the other to stipulate to for trial purposes.

In order to verify discovery responses and to make sure that each party has all relevant evidence on hand for their case, subpoenas are also used during the discovery process. While witnesses are subpoenaed to trial to testify occasionally in divorce cases, business records can also be subpoenaed during the discovery process. Such records are often subpoenaed from a party’s employer or bank, or if children are involved, school and daycare records can be pertinent. Additionally, medical records can sometimes be necessary, such as when one spouse contends he or she is unable to work or a child has an expensive recurring medical condition. Division of Family Services and police records can also be relevant when there are issues of abuse or neglect.

Since there are so many elements to the discovery process, it can take a significant period of time for everything to be completed and ready for trial. Often, parties find that they can settle their case during or after the discovery process is completed based on the information that has come forth. In the event that that is not the case, then the discovery elicited during the discovery process is key to making a spouse’s case at trial.

Which discovery to use and how to implement it is crucial to a successful and equitable result in a divorce, and an experienced family law attorney should always be contacted to guide you through the divorce process.