Massachusetts Divorce and Discovery Lawyers
After the complaint and answer are filed, the parties usually begin the discovery process. Getting information through the discovery stage is an essential part of the case, and even when both parties want to resolve all the issues amicably, some discovery is often needed to ensure a fair and equitable agreement - even if it is only to confirm certain understandings and justifications that form the basis for your Separation Agreement.
Mandatory Rule 410 Self-Disclosure
In order to streamline the process, except as otherwise agreed by the parties or ordered by the court, within 45 days of serving the summons and Complaint, each party must provide to the other their signed financial statement, federal and state income tax returns for the past three years, all bank statements for the prior three years, documentation relating to the cost and nature of available health insurance coverage, statements from the past three years for all retirement accounts, pensions, IRA's and similar assets, all loan or mortgage applications submitted over the past three years, and any and all financial statements prepared within three years of filing.
Additionally, each party must provide four of the most recent pay stubs from each employer for whom the party worked. In cases where you do not have these documents, you are required to explain to the other party, in writing, why you do not have them and elaborate what you did to try to get them. You are expected to make reasonable efforts to get any documents you do not currently have.
Using the Targeted Discovery Tools
Once both parties have completed the automatic discovery process, more targeted discovery tools - such as interrogatories, a Request for Production of Documents, subpoenas, and depositions - are employed in order to truly discover the answers sought for each side to prove their case. In some cases, we may need an expert's opinion as it relates to a host of issues such as custodial parenting, real estate values, business valuations, or medical issues relating to employment.
When it Comes to Discovery, Our Attorneys Focus on Attention to Detail
The attorneys at Massachusetts Family Law Group have the know-how and expertise for analyzing financial statements, tax returns, and banking records and at tracking spending patterns to determine discrepancies between income, spending and assets identified during discovery. Former clients will attest to how our meticulous attention to detail will, at times, discover assets not previously disclosed by your spouse.
It starts with tax returns. We don't just glance over tax returns, but we comb through both business returns and personal returns spending hours on Form 1040, including but not limited to Schedule A and itemized deductions, Schedule B and interest and dividend income, Schedule C which is profit or loss from business, Schedule D which is capital gains and losses, Schedule E and supplemental income and loss, Schedule F and Profit or Loss from farming, and Form 2441 (Child and Dependent Care Expenses), Form 4797 (Sale of Business Property), Form 4562 (Depreciation and Amortization), and others.
Discovery Experts and Masters
To resolve discovery disputes, there is often a need to obtain an expert's opinion.
The expert will be required to prepare a report, and later may be deposed or asked to testify at the time of trial. Since experts charge on an hourly basis, most consider it prudent to lock-in their testimony at a deposition, have it recorded on a transcript, rather than having the expert testify at the time of trial.
Real Estate Values
The most common disagreement relating to valuation is the marital home or other real estate interests. Often one spouse is living in the home and the other feels he or she is entitled to be compensated for no longer having use or an interest in said property. Valuations are generally obtained from a licensed real estate appraiser. If both parties get their own appraisals, courts often take an average of the two.
If one party has the ability to buy the other out of their share of the real estate, the court may credit any principal payments made by either spouse during the separation. If the parties both want to take the home, a judge would likely order it be put on the market for sale. If young children are living at the home, their best interests are considered first notwithstanding the financial aspects of the asset division associated with the home.
It is often difficult to accurately estimate a fair market value of a business. Notwithstanding recent case law relating to which formulas are to be applied, issues such as forensic audits and an inspection of the company's books is often required.
Additionally, in closely-held corporations, goodwill and tangible assets are values that ought to be considered. Finally, there are many businesses that are considered to be either a valued asset, or an ongoing income stream. There are different formulas to consider, and our attorneys can explain the differences to you.
If one spouse seeks spousal support from the other, or a support obligor claims not to be able to pay the level sought by his or her spouse, employment experts are often needed to either prove or disprove the claim. The vocational experts we work with assess a party's education, work experience, ability, age, the job market, and other relevant factors before rendering an opinion or recommendations.
Associated with a party's ability – or inability – to work, one may claim certain medical conditions or disabilities are present. Here, a medical provider who has treated the person, or impartial medical experts may offer an opinion based on medical records.
WARNING — Some Experts are Just Hired Guns!
There is a network of experts who, for a fee, testify to virtually any set of facts. Courts are often times aware of such individuals, and if you are retaining one on your side, you are wasting your money. Ultimately, judges make their own opinion and if the (expert) witness's credibility is so poor and nothing short of a waste of the court's time, you'll frustrate the judge and affect the credibility and strength of your case.
Our Massachusetts Discovery Brain Trust
When it comes to discovery, each of our attorneys draw upon the resources of our state-wide brain trust made up of attorneys and experts who share information and knowledge across the Commonwealth for the benefit of our clients. Whether it is a financial- or child-related matter that requires discovery, we know how to get to the bottom of the matter and how specific courts and judges view specific scenarios.