- Interrogatories. These are questions you answer under oath, in writing. This is the other side’s attempt to get as much information about your case as possible, in your own words.
- Depositions. These are also questions you answer under oath, but by giving testimony. Depositions usually take place in an office, with the parties, their counsel, and a court reporter present. Kind of a dress rehearsal for trial, depositions typically have a less formal feel than testimony taken at trial. But the answers count—so if anything you say at deposition varies from what you say later, expect it to become an issue at trial.
- Request for Production of Documents. This is when the other side asks you to produce paper or electronic documents such as tax returns, cancelled checks, emails, and even photos. If you have the documents in your possession, custody or control (in another’s possession, such as a bank, but you have access to them), then you must produce them.
- Requests for Admission (RFA’s). Pay attention here, as a lot rides on these. RFA’s are statements that you must admit or deny in writing, usually within 21-days of when they were issued (occasionally, the deadline is longer under certain circumstances–check with your lawyer to be sure). RFA’s are meant to force you into admitting a fact that will hurt your case at trial. You might think, then, that the way to go is just to deny everything or be as evasive as possible in your answer. But if you deny something you shouldn’t have and the court sees it that way, the court can disregard your denial and force you to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees. In other words, this isn’t the time to get cute with your answer.
Also, be aware that if you don’t answer RFA’s by the deadline, they’re deemed admitted, which means that they’re ”conclusively established” against you. Yes, that’s as bad as it sounds. So if your RFA alleges you’ve committed adultery, and you fail to answer it within 21 days, the fact of that adultery is now conclusively established against you. Of course, there is some hope if you’ve blown your deadline: you can always ask for the court “un-admit” everything and let you answer late. But with so much at stake, you really don’t want to be in this position if you can help it.
So now that you know what discovery is, you need to know how to answer it. In the next post, we’ll share some strategies for responding to your Virginia discovery, and ways to make the process a little less painful.