Interrogatories in a Texas Family Law or Divorce Case
The Discovery phase is the fact finding and evidence gathering process of a case. During Discovery, a Party can send or receive many types of discovery requests. One tool a Party may use is Interrogatories.
What are Interrogatories?
Interrogatories are a list of questions from one Party to the other. The Party answering the interrogatory must answer the questions, in writing, within 30 days from the request. The answers must also be sworn to under oath by signing a Verification. The Verification states that all answers a Party provides are true and accurate and that the answers given are within that Party’s personal knowledge. A Party answering an interrogatory may also object to the question with a valid objection or privilege claim.
What is the Purpose of Interrogatories?
Interrogatories are meant to be a straightforward, cost-effective approach to discovery. The questions are used to find out facts about a case.
Oftentimes interrogatories in a divorce case center around lists. Examples of interrogatories in a divorce case could include:
- List all assets you and your spouse own
- List the year, make, model and mileage of all vehicles you own
Interrogatories in custody cases can be used to uncover what a Party may be thinking, such as:
- Why do you believe it is in your children’s best interest to live in Harris County, Texas
- State the reasons that it is not in your children’s best interest that your spouse be appointed a Joint Managing Conservator
How Many Interrogatories Can Be Requested?
In most family law cases, a Party can only request that the Other Party answer 25 interrogatories. If a party requests more than 25 interrogatories, the Other Party does not have to answer the extra questions. When this happens, the Other Party should object to the additional interrogatories.
Objecting to Interrogatories
Common reasons a party may object to certain interrogatories include relevance, if they are overly burdensome, or if they call for privileged information.
As with all discovery requests, the interrogatory must be relevant to the case at hand. You cannot ask a Party to provide information that is not relevant to the case. An irrelevant interrogatory during a divorce proceeding would be “State all the names and addresses of your mother’s doctors.” This request would have no relevance in a divorce proceeding and would not have to be answered.
Overly Burdensome Interrogatories
An example of an overly burdensome interrogatory would be, “State the dates and amounts of all Zelle transactions from 2009 to present.” This request would require so much work to be done by a Party. You could object to this request as overly burdensome because it requires a Party to rewrite a year’s worth of information. This would take lots of time to gather this information and even more time to write it out.
Interrogatories Calling for Privileged Information
A Party can also object to an interrogatory that calls for privileged information. Privileged information is sensitive information that typically includes confidential health information that is protected under HIPPA. An example of an interrogatory that requests privileged information in a divorce would be, “List all prescriptions you take including prescriber information and dosages.”
Will My Response to an Interrogatory Be Used in Court?
Any answer that a Party provides in response the interrogatory may be used in Court. When a Party answers an interrogatory, they swear that the answer they are providing is a true and accurate statement. Oftentimes interrogatories come in handy if a Party lies on the witness stand.
Let’s say that a Party answers an interrogatory and states that the only vehicle he or she owns is a 2020 Ford F-150. In trial, that Party testifies, in Court and under oath, that the only vehicle they own is a 2022 Tesla. There is obviously a big discrepancy in what vehicle a party drives. The attorney can use the prior interrogatory answer to show the Court that the Party is a liar and should not be trusted.
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