Requests for Production and Inspection in Texas Family Law and Divorce Cases
Discovery is the fact finding and evidence gathering process of a case. During this point of the lawsuit is when a Party obtains information that supports their case and also obtains information the Other Party intends to use to enhance their case.
One of the most common discovery tools is the Request for Production and Inspection. The Request for Production and Inspection, also known as “RFPs” or Request for Production, is a formal request for documents to be produced by a Party. The requests are made by one Party to another and request specific documents, records, or items. In a family law case, the documents requested could range from bank statements, credit card statements, text messages, photos, school records, videos and recording, receipts, etc.
What is the Purpose of a Request for Production and Inspection?
The purpose of a Request for Production is to allow a Party to obtain and review any evidence the Other Party may have. The requested documents may be crucial in proving a Party’s case.
- In a divorce case, a Party is entitled to see what the Other Party spent money on during the marriage. This means that a Party is entitled to request all statements from financial institutions, including banks, retirement accounts, mortgages, auto loans and credit cards.
- If child support or spousal support is at issue in a case, a Party is entitled to paystubs of the Other Party, health insurance benefits, and tax returns.
What can I Request from the Other Party?
Depending on the issues in your case may also depend on what discovery you may request.
For example, if a Party is claiming that the Other Party spent money on a paramour during the marriage, the Party may request hotel receipts and travel logs from the Other Party. If a Party is claiming that the Other Party is intentionally under employing himself, a Party may request the Other Party produce a resume and all submitted job applications.
When can I Send a Request for Production?
A Party may send a Request for Production during the discovery period. The discovery period is the time frame when a Party can send or receive discovery requests. The discovery period begins at the time Initial Disclosures are due and ends thirty days before trial.
Do I Have to Respond to a Request for Production?
The short answer is yes. A Party must produce documents that they have or can readily obtain. A document is readily obtainable if you can download them from the internet, obtain them from a financial institution or if you have access to documents in your personal records.
You do not need to produce documents that will be very costly to obtain or involve a huge undertaking to get. For example, you will not be expected to pay hundreds of dollars to get your hospital records, but you will probably be expected to get a free printout of your prescriptions from your pharmacy if those records are requested. You must make a reasonable effort to comply with discovery requests.
Nowadays, most banks and credit cards have an online portal where you can download your monthly or quarterly statements. You will be expected to obtain these documents. If your financial institution does not have statements online, you may have to visit the branch or make a request online to obtain statements.
These Requests Seem Like an Invasion of My Privacy, and I Don’t Want to Respond. What are My Options?
Some Request for Production may seem nosy or like an invasion of your privacy. You can object to inappropriate requests, but the court rules allow each side to fish for useful, relevant evidence during the “discovery” phase of a case. Most of the information obtained during discovery will not or cannot be used at trial. The bottom line is that you must answer these requests on time and provide all documents.
How Do I Respond to a Request for Production?
When responding to a Request for Production, a Party must state one of the following:
- Production, inspection, or other requested action will be permitted as requested;
- The requested items are attached to the response;
- That the production will be made available at a specific time and place, if the responding party is objection to the time and place of production;
- No items have been identified – after a diligent search – that are responsive to the request (meaning no documents are in existence); or
- Any objections or assertions of privilege.
How Long Do I Have to Respond to a Request for Production?
A Party has thirty (30) days from the date a Request for Production is served on them to produce a response. Throughout the litigation, a Party has an obligation to continue to supplement his or her responses to the Request for Production. As a case progresses, more financial statements may be generated. These statements will need to be provided to the other side.
What if I Don’t Comply with the Request for Production?
Requests for Production were created by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure so there are significant penalties for a party who fails to comply with the formal discovery requests. The penalties include:
- Compelling the party to produce the documents
- Awarding attorney’s fees to a party trying to obtain the documents requested
- Awarding sanctions if the Court believes a party is playing games
- And even holding a party in contempt of court (jail time or fees) for not complying with formal discovery.
If you don’t respond to the Request for Production, the other side can ask the Court to force you to answer the question. The Court may, and probably will, order you to provide the requested documents by a certain date.
Failure to comply with the Request for Production may make the Court upset. The Court may remember you as being “difficult” the next time you go back to court on your case. A dispute over discovery will also cost you money.
Know too that if you fail to comply with the Request for Production, you may not be able to use the evidence that you would like. If a document was not handed over in discovery, you cannot turn around and use it in trial.
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