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If you are involved in a domestic litigation case, somewhere along the way you will most certainly be involved in a process known as Discovery. Discovery can begin as early as the filing of the initial complaint, and continue right on up through the final hearing. Although the process may seem overwhelming, it is very important that you provide all requested information to your attorney in a timely manner. Failure to respond to Discovery can result in severe sanctions, including a court ruling that precludes you from introducing critical evidence at trial.
Maryland has very liberal rules about what information is discoverable. Any information that can lead to admissible information is discoverable. That means that an opposing party can request information that it cannot present in the court room, so long as that bit of information will help them learn something else that that they can present in the court room.
There are five types of Discovery:
Interrogatories—A maximum of 30 questions, presented to an opposing party in writing. A party has 30 days to respond to all of the questions, in writing and signed under oath. An attorney will help craft appropriate responses in a manner that protects a client's legal rights, including the right not to self-incriminate (“Pleading the fifth").
Requests for Production of Documents— Any number of written requests for access to documents or property. A party has 30 days to respond by providing copies of the documents or property, or providing access to the documents or property. Under certain circumstances, access may be denied with an acceptable reason.
Depositions— An interview under oath, usually conducted after Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents are completed. Answers are recorded, and may be used against you during litigation, especially if your answers during the deposition conflict with your answers at trial.
Records Depositions— A Records Deposition is very similar to a Request for Production of Documents. However, a Records Deposition is usually used to request documents from a non-party to a case. Also, unlike Requests for Production of Documents, a Subpoena is required and must be properly served on the person that controls the sought after documents. A person has 30 days to respond to the Subpoena by providing the requested records or providing access to the records.
Request for Admissions— Request for Admissions are written statements that the opposing party must either admit or deny. Any statements that the party fails to respond to within 30 days are deemed admitted. Admitted statements are accepted as truth during trial proceedings.