It is imperative to understand the nature and extent of the marital estate before reaching a property settlement in divorce. In a Michigan divorce case, the formal process of finding assets is called discovery.
After all, you cannot negotiate a good deal until you have an understanding about what there is to divide and the discovery process provides the answers.
In the context of divorce, the discovery process begins with mandatory disclosures. After a divorce is filed, Michigan Court Rule 3.206(C)(2) requires the exchange of a Verified Financial Information Form (“VFIF”) within 28 days following receipt (service) of divorce papers. The VFIF requires the parties to exchange employment information as well as information regarding financial accounts, property and liabilities.
After the VFIF is exchanged there are 5 different ways to conduct discovery:
- Interrogatories. Which are written questions which must be answered under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury.
- Requests to produce documents. Formal requests to produce documents which must be timely answered.
- Requests for Admission. A formal request served on the other party to Admit a fact into evidence. A failure to Answer results in an admission of the fact.
- Subpoena. A Court Order signed by your lawyer requiring the appearance or production of documents. (e.g. A subpoena to a bank to provide account statements. . .)
- Depositions. Live testimony taken under oath in the presence of a court reporter.
Discovery is key to being prepared and preparation is key to achieving your goals.
On March 23, 2023, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding discovery in divorce in the case of Cammenga v. Cammenga. In this case, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the ex-husband’s argument that the trial court improperly prejudged his credibility during the discovery process. At trial, there was extensive evidence submitted to support the notion that the ex-husband gave untimely and incomplete responses to discovery requests which resulted in a financial sanction against him and a prohibition from him introducing evidence not disclosed. In rejecting the ex-husband’s arguments, the Court of Appeals noted that the trial court correctly sanctioned the ex-husband for his failure to respond to discovery requests.
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