In a divorce or other litigation case in New Jersey, the only way to know if you have a good case or good settlement position is to conduct discovery. What is discovery? Discovery is the process of obtaining pertinent information from the other side in the case. For example, in a divorce in New Jersey where one person seeks to obtain alimony, it is necessary to obtain income information from the other side for at least three years. Income information including but not limited to: tax returns, W2, bonus information, stock options/grants, pay stubs, New Jersey Family Part Case Information Sheet, deferred compensation information. Your attorney would seek this by way of a notice to produce/demand for the production of documents, during the discovery period. Failing to provide the documents can lead to sanctions, fines and/or a dismissal of a person’s answer with or without prejudice under the court rules of New Jersey. Jersey City divorce attorney Santo Artusa and his team are well seasoned in the discovery and motion practices of divorce court in Hudson County-New Jersey.
Aside from requesting document production in a divorce, a party can request that the other party answer interrogatories. Failure to answer those leads to a violation of New Jersey Rule R-4:18-1; R-4:23. Aside from these written requests, a party can request to depose witnesses or other party involved in the case. Depositions are extremely valuable information seeking/obtaining tools. The depositions permit the attorney and his client the chance to question the opposing party with little to no preparation, whereas an interrogatory can have “canned” answers and use diversion in the answers because it is not face to face. Furthermore, once a deposition begins and a party is sworn, the deponent and his counsel are permitted very few chances to consult, similar to being on the stand in a trial. You also have the ability to ask follow up questions that you cannot do with paper questions and see how the witness holds up under pressure. Being questioned and/or in court is a stressful experience and if your attorney knows that, this information only permits you to have a stronger settlement position than one against a person who has been in and out of court many times.
DISCOVERY AND APPRAISALS
Divorce cases tend to focus on the assets acquired during the course of the marriage and one of those assets may be the marital home or investment properties. The value of an asset is what someone is willing to pay for it so aside from placing an asset on the market, the other way to obtain a value is to have 1-2 appraisals done on the property to get an average value of the property. The appraisers can be brought to court to testify if a value is in dispute and the appraiser can also be deposed prior to trial.
An expert witness report is hearsay without testifying about it in court. The report is useful in negotiations and so forth but in a trial, the report cannot be used without the expert. The rules and factors covering hearsay in New Jersey are: N.J.R.E. 802. A person must be able to cross-examine a witness as to how he or she came to their conclusion, and before that, question if the person is really an expert or not. Again, the expert witness can be deposed prior to testifying in court. In Hudson County, the family court and all divorce trials are heard at 595 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07306 in the “green monster” or “high court.”
Once discovery is complete and/or your attorney has obtained pertinent information that will permit intelligent/fully informed negotiations, settlement offers can begin to be exchanged and you can be assured that any deal you make is with the full knowledge and information you need to make an informed decision. Hopefully you will only get divorced once, and if that is the case, you do not want to “just get it over with” and regret it years down the line.Divorce, like other litigation, can be viewed as a form of war. The weapons of this kind of war involve paper and information, yet these weapons can strike just as hard as a gun if used correctly. And like any war, the other side should know you are fully read to fight all the way or they will have little to no incentive to negotiate in good faith.
When a party is unwilling to conduct discovery or violates certain discovery rules, a motion to dismiss without prejudice can be brought and ultimately a motion to dismiss with prejudice can be brought which will suppress the answer of the opposing side, leading to a default where the non-defaulting party can seek the relief they are asking for without a trial but still before a Judge who will decide if the relief sought meets the legal criteria. So for example, if one party has had custody of a child and the other party has never even seen the child, just because the one party defaults does not mean that a transfer of custody will take place, the best interests of a child still remain paramount and the Judge must make a determination with that in mind.
Discovery is a critical part of a divorce case in NJ. There are ample tools that an attorney can utilize for the benefit of his client and like anything else, having the tools alone is not enough, knowing how to use them is. If you are considering a divorce or have been served with divorce papers in NJ whether in Jersey City, Hoboken, Hackensack, Union City, Union, Alpine, Bayonne, West Orange or beyond, contact my team at the Artusa Law Firm of Jersey City today for a confidential consultation on 201-706-7910.