If you’ve been following my mini-series on discovery in Virginia divorce cases, you’re probably a little overwhelmed. With so many different tools available to us in the Virginia divorce process, discovery can be an expensive and time-consuming process, both for your attorney and also for you. You know that you’re going to get asked about all sorts of things, and that you’ll have to provide answers. Going through the paperwork is a lot like doing your taxes—it’s boring, time consuming, and difficult. Still, there are things you can do to make it easier and less expensive.
How do I keep my legal fees low when we’re working on discovery?
Basically, we want to get as much information as we can with as little effort on our part as possible. The most important thing you can do to keep your legal fees down is to be organized.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client come in and drop me off a shoebox (or, worse, multiple very large boxes) full of paperwork and receipts in no particular order. I think this happens mostly because my clients assume that whatever they give to me will just go on to their husband, and they like to think about him trying to make sense of the cluttered mess.
The truth is, though, that someone has to go through your discovery before it goes to the other side. I can’t send ten shoeboxes and still have my professional reputation remain in tact! And, besides that, I have to know what information is there. There are some things we may not want to share—especially if it is privileged (and therefore exempt from discovery) in some way. If anything is missing, I need to know that, too, so I can make you go out and get that extra information, or make arrangements to supplement the discovery later when we have more information. The bottom line: We do have to answer his questions, and we have to do it in an organized way. Someone is going to have to review your discovery after you drop it off at our office, and if it’s disorganized, it’s going to take longer and cost you more.
How do I make answering the questions easier?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you’re confused about what a question means, call your attorney or speak to her paralegal to be sure you understand. If you don’t have copies of the documents your husband is requesting, call the company in question and see what you can get sent to you. If, for example, you need copies of your credit card statements going back three years, don’t look through your house, hoping to piece together as many as possible. Sit down, call the credit card company, and ask them to send you copies of your statements. Need tax returns but can’t seem to find them? Call your CPA, or whoever prepared your taxes. Go straight to the source to find out what you need to do to get your hands on the information you need.
Begin working on your discovery as soon as possible, because the deadline is going to come whether you’re prepared or not. If you have to request documents from another company, like a bank or your cell phone provider, be aware that it will take time to get these copies. Give yourself plenty of time, so that you’re not too stressed about the upcoming deadline to think clearly when you sit down to answer the questions.
Take discovery seriously, because it’s an important part of the Virginia divorce process. We’ll need to get information from the other side, so it’s important that we provide information to them as well. This is how we’ll make sure that you’re getting what you deserve, so be sure that you comply with discovery requests and use these tips to save yourself time and aggravation later.