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New Discovery Rules and How Our Clients Will Be Affected

New Discovery Rules and How Our Clients Will Be Affected

New Discovery Rules and How Our Clients Will Be Affected

Discovery is the process where parties in a lawsuit may request and obtain documents, information, or evidence to bolster their case, explore legal claims, and potentially use at trial. The rules of discovery are controlled by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Discovery has always been an optional legal maneuver in family law cases – many cases necessitate discovery, often the convoluted marital estates or litigious custody cases. Many cases, such as uncontested divorces or divorces with minimal property or children don’t use discovery at all.

Effective January 1, 2021, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure has mandated some new discovery rules that will have an effect on all of our client’s cases and we wanted to let you know what to expect in your role as a litigant in a family law matter.

  • This rule is effective January 1, 2021 so it applies only to cases filed on or after January 1st of this year.
  • Now ALL family cases must conduct the initial disclosures phase of discovery and additional discovery cannot be conducted until the initial disclosures have been exchanged.
  • Both parties in a divorce or family law matter must file a response to Initial Disclosures no later than thirty (30) days after an answer or general appearance is filed.
  • Failure to comply with these discovery rules will hurt a litigant’s case, so the disclosures must be fully and timely answered, even if a litigant would not otherwise utilize the discovery process.

The Rule 192.3 Initial Disclosures MUST answer and include:

  • the correct names of the parties to the lawsuit;
  • the name, address, and telephone number of any potential parties;
  • the legal theories and, in general, the factual bases of the responding party’s claims or defenses (the responding party need not marshal all evidence that may be offered at trial);
  • a computation of each category of damages claimed by the responding party—who must also make available for inspection and copying the documents or other evidentiary material, unless privileged or protected from disclosure, on which each computation is based, including materials bearing on the nature and extent of injuries suffered;
  • the name, address, and telephone number of persons having knowledge of relevant facts, and a brief statement of each identified person’s connection with the case;
  • a copy—or a description by category and location—of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the responding party has in its possession, custody, or control, and may use to support its claims or defenses, unless the use would be solely for impeachment;
  • any indemnity and insuring agreements described in Rule 192.3(f);
  • any settlement agreements described in Rule 192.3(g);
  • any witness statements described in Rule 192.3(h);
  • in a suit alleging physical or mental injury and damages from the occurrence that is the subject of the case, all medical records and bills that are reasonably related to the injuries or damages asserted or, in lieu thereof, an authorization permitting the disclosure of such medical records and bills;
  • in a suit alleging physical or mental injury and damages from the occurrence that is the subject of the case, all medical records and bills obtained by the responding party by virtue of an authorization furnished by the requesting party; and
  • the name, address, and telephone number of any person who may be designated as a responsible third party

Divorce or annulments (any case relating to division of a marital estate) must also include the following:

(A) all documents pertaining to real estate;

(B) all documents pertaining to any pension, retirement, profit-sharing, or other employee benefit plan, including the most recent account statement for any plan;

(C) all documents pertaining to any life, casualty, liability, and health insurance; and

(D) the most recent statement pertaining to any account at a financial institution, including banks, savings and loans institutions, credit unions, and brokerage firms.

Parties involved in case that will include a child support or spousal support obligation must also provide the following documents in the initial disclosures:

(A) all policies, statements, and the summary description of benefits for any medical and health insurance coverage that is or would be available for the child or the spouse;

(B) the party’s income tax returns for the previous two years or, if no return has been filed, the party’s Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedule K-1 for such years; and

(C) the party’s two most recent payroll check stubs.

Expert Disclosures

Parties in a divorce or family law matter must designate any potential expert witnesses by the later of the following dates:

1)  thirty (30) days after the request is served; or

2) (a) with regard to all experts testifying for a party seeking affirmative relief, 90 days before the end of the discovery period; (b) with regard to all other experts, 60 days before the end of the discovery period.

Failure to disclose an expert witness, which can include property experts, psychological experts, your attorney for legal fees, etc., will prevent you from being able to use that testimony at trial.

There are other amendments included in the new discovery rules: deposition guidelines, impeachment evidence, etc. The Ramos Law Group, PLLC prides itself on staying up to date on new rules or guidelines and will always use our knowledge to benefit our clients.

We realize that was a LOT of information and some of it may not even apply to your specific family law matter or potential matter. Please contact us at the Ramos Law Group, PLLC at (713) 225-6200 to schedule a time to discuss your case or any questions you may have about the discovery process.