Full Disclosure in the Collaborative Process - Collaborative Family Law Association of St. Louis

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Full Disclosure in the Collaborative Process

Sarah J. Wittrock

One key component of the Collaborative Process is a voluntary full disclosure of financial documentation and information. Why is this disclosure important?

To answer this question, it may help to know some basics regarding the most common “discovery” tools used by lawyers to gather information and documents in the traditional court process: 

  • Interrogatories:  Written questions either spouse may submit to the other which must be answered within thirty days.
  • Requests for Production of Documents:  Written requests either spouse may submit to the other which require the production of relevant documents within thirty days.
  • Depositions:  A witness’ (including a spouse’s) formal sworn testimony, taken outside of court, which is recorded in a written transcript.
  • Subpoenas for Documents:  A court order delivered to a bank, a credit card company, a medical provider, a school, or any other business or entity holding information relevant to the divorce. The recipient is required to produce specific records including documents, medical records, audio or video recordings, photographs, etc.

The Collaborative Process requires a commitment by both spouses to settle their case without court involvement. This means (absent some unique, specific agreement) these traditional discovery tools are not available to Collaborative participants. Therefore, Collaborative participants must voluntarily disclose all relevant information and documentation. Good faith negotiation is a hallmark of the Collaborative Process, and this requires that each spouse has complete and accurate information.

Voluntary disclosure is not limited to financial issues. The Collaborative Process may also include discussions about conduct issues and parenting concerns. Good faith negotiation requires that the spouses also maintain a commitment to make voluntary and full disclosures regarding these topics as well.

Many of the discovery tools used in the traditional court process result in embarrassment for a family. Consider the sweeping requests for documents that may be included in a subpoena for employment records or the uncomfortable questions that might be asked during the deposition of a spouse or witness. One of the many advantages of the Collaborative Process is the enhanced privacy it provides for spouses, as compared to traditional litigation.

Every divorce requires the couple to gather a great deal of information. In a traditional divorce, this gathering process is potentially a very expensive, time-consuming, and often emotional endeavor. The Collaborative Process offers couples a far less painful means of producing the information necessary to successfully resolve their cases.

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