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Often times, it is necessary to investigate matters and issues concerning a divorce action prior to the initiation of the action or shortly thereafter. It may be necessary to conduct such investigation in order to substantiate allegations of adultery or some other ground for divorce in Georgia or to prove the assets of a spouse (for example for equitable division, child support or alimony). In this case, there may be less expensive and more informal methods of obtaining this information as opposed to conducting formal discovery.
Specifically, information gathered from a party’s own personal records may also be useful to that party or her attorney in substantiating any legal claims made on that party’s behalf. For example, a party wishing to substantiate a claim of adultery against his spouse in a divorce action may provide his attorney with text messages, letters, emails or cellphone records or other records or documents in his possession that provide evidence for the claim.
Informal discovery may also be conducted by virtue of interviewing and gathering information from third parties.
If the third party is cooperative, that third party may be willing to provide a statement, affidavit, or any documents or records that he or she may have in their possession relevant to the action. However, as discussed in our section entitled “Discovery: Requests for Production” non-cooperative third parties or nonparties may be served with certain formal discovery requests to compel them to provide the requesting party with relevant evidence in their possession.
So what types of information can you gather informally? Just about anything is fair game. You can request the IRS to provide any tax return that is in your name, you can pull your credit report, you can pull joint bank statements, etc. Honestly, the list is only limited by your imagination and its relevancy to the case.
In sum, informal discovery can be as valuable or perhaps even more valuable to you and your attorney in preparing, prosecuting and defending your case. Do not ever forget just because there is a formal process for discovery, the informal process can often be more useful if used correctly. Speak to an attorney regarding which method of discovery is most fitting for your case.