Divorce is a form of civil litigation, meaning that divorces are lawsuits initiated by one party (the petitioner) against another party (the respondent). Because divorce is a form of civil litigation, Georgia’s rules of civil procedure, codified by Georgia’s Civil Practice Act, apply to divorce actions. The discovery process is a tool provided for by the rules of civil procedure that both parties may take advantage of to gather useful information necessary to the lawsuit. In Georgia, there are four basic discovery tools parties may use to gather information: Requests to Admit, Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Deposition. For more detailed information concerning each of these discovery tools, see our articles addressing Georgia’s discovery process.
Because the purpose of the discovery process is to allow both parties to a suit to gather information from the other party that he or she would not be able to ascertain otherwise, the discovery process may seem invasive. Questions and requests concerning a parties’ financial records and romantic liaisons are all fair game when it comes to the discovery process during divorce. Despite the invasive nature of the discovery process, it is important for all parties to respond to proper discovery requests, and to do so in a timely manner. Normally, a party has 30 or 45 days in which to respond to a discovery request after that party has been served with the request. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-26 et seq. If a party fails to respond to discovery, that party may be subject to penalties and sanctions.
The one exception to this rule is in situations where the requests are abusive or overly invasive. In such situations, the party who is the target of the discovery request may seek a protective order from the presiding court. The court may also sanction the party propounding the requests. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-26. Generally, when one party feels as if the discovery requests of the opposing party are overly broad or abusive, the parties are able to resolve the discovery dispute on their own. However, if parties are not able to resolve discovery disputes, the disputes will be resolved by the court. Uniform Superior Court Rule 6.4(B).