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    June 9, 2023
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    Discovery
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    Andrew Linden

Understanding Interrogatories: Discovery in Family Law

Did you know you can send the opposing party a list of questions they must answer? Did you know they can do the same? What are interrogatories, their limitations, and what should you expect?

Understanding the specifics of family law can be overwhelming, particularly when you’re entangled in the throes of a complex case. One concept you may encounter is ‘interrogatories.’ This article aims to explain this critical tool in family law litigation in Washington State, from its advantages and drawbacks to its limitations and expectations.

In its most basic sense, an interrogatory is a set of written questions sent by one party to another during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. The party receiving the interrogatories is required by law to answer them truthfully and completely, under oath. In the context of family law, these can range from queries about financial assets and liabilities to questions about child care arrangements or familial relationships.

Advantages of Interrogatories

The primary advantage of interrogatories is that they allow a party to gather vital information about the opposing side’s case. For instance, in a divorce proceeding, interrogatories can help reveal hidden assets or undisclosed liabilities. They also enable the discovery of crucial details about the other party’s daily routines and interactions with the children, which could be pivotal in a child custody dispute.

Interrogatories can also help to pinpoint inconsistencies in the other party’s narrative, giving a party leverage during negotiations or at trial. By obtaining information ahead of time, parties can better prepare their cases and formulate effective strategies.

Drawbacks of Interrogatories

However, like any tool, interrogatories have their drawbacks. One major disadvantage is that they can be time-consuming and costly. The responding party needs to gather information, often from different sources, to provide comprehensive answers. If a party chooses to hire an attorney to assist in preparing responses, this process can add significantly to the cost of the litigation.
Moreover, responses to interrogatories are not always reliable. While it is a requirement to answer truthfully under oath, some parties may be less than forthcoming, especially in divulging sensitive or potentially damaging information.

Limitations of Interrogatories

Interrogatories also come with certain limitations under Washington State law. Firstly, the scope of questions is limited to matters relevant to the case at hand. This is to prevent abuse of the process through irrelevant or overly intrusive questions. Furthermore, Washington law also restricts the number of interrogatories that can be served without the court’s permission, typically capping at 25 questions.

In addition, while interrogatories require a party to answer under oath, they don’t have the immediate repercussion of a live cross-examination. Therefore, a party can carefully craft their responses and potentially avoid giving full disclosure of the requested information.

Expectations Surrounding Interrogatories

If you are involved in a family law case in Washington State, it is crucial to understand what to expect from the process of serving or answering interrogatories.
If you are serving interrogatories, you should expect to invest time in drafting effective questions. Careful wording and precision can make a significant difference in the value of the information you receive.

On the other hand, if you are answering interrogatories, you should anticipate spending time collecting and organizing your responses. You should also expect to consult with your attorney to ensure that your answers are comprehensive, accurate, and within your legal rights.

Finally, understand that while interrogatories are a powerful tool, they are just one part of the larger discovery process. They may be used in conjunction with other discovery tools such as depositions, document requests, and subpoenas.

Conclusion

In conclusion, interrogatories serve as a vital element in the discovery phase of Washington State family law cases. Although they have both advantages and drawbacks, and come with certain limitations, they are essential in revealing crucial information about the opposing party’s case. Whether you are serving or answering interrogatories, understanding their role and expectations can greatly impact the outcome of your case. However, as with all legal matters, it is always advisable to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to guide you through the process.

This article is intended to provide a general overview of interrogatories in Washington State family law. It does not constitute legal advice. For advice tailored to your specific circumstances, you should consult with a qualified attorney.

If you are looking for legal guidance in the Seattle area, contact the Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200 to speak with a dedicated family law attorney. We have extensive experience dealing with international matters and child abductions.

 

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Article by Andrew Linden
Associate Attorney