Discovery Process in Texas: How Do I Answer/Respond to Requests?
What is Discovery?
Discovery is a process of exchanging information between parties.
It allows a person in a lawsuit to ‘discover’ certain details they would not have known. There are three main goals to keep in mind during discovery process:
- Avoid unfair and prejudicial surprises
- Prepare before trial; and
- Help the parties reach a settlement
When you hear the word ‘discovery’, think of exchange of documents, properties, and answering questions.
Types of Discovery
- Request for Admission (Rule 198)
- Request for Disclosure (Rule 194)
- Interrogatories (Rule 197)
- Inspection of Entry (Rule 196)
- Mental/Physical Examinations (Rule 204)
- Request for Production (Rule 196)
- Depositions (Rule 199-203)
The Request for Disclosure answers basic questions about who the parties are, including yourself; what you want (relief);
and why you should get what you want (legal and factual bases).
The rules above (‘R’ and number) refer to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
When Does Discovery Start in Texas?
Discovery generally begins after the other party has answered a lawsuit. You have 30 days from the date you receive the requests. However, if you serve the other side your requests or you receive a discovery request prior to filing an answer with the court, then you have 50 days instead to answer.
Deadline for Discovery: When are my Answers to Discovery Requests Due?
You have 30 days to serve the other side your responses and objections.
In a family suit like child custody, the discovery period ends 30 days before trial in set.
You need to speak with a child custody lawyer if you have been served with discovery. If you fail to answer these requests, you lose your opportunity to object and request for admissions are automatically admitted (i.e. stamped yes).
In family law, discovery are more common in cases of divorce where the parties are disputing custody or division of properties. These are generally set at Level 2. The level of discovery
tells you how many questions a party can ask.
How to Answer Discovery Requests – Interrogatories
Your interrogatories must be answered fully. However, you are allowed to object to certain requests.
It is important to talk to a family lawyer before filling out these requests; for example, there may be information such as medical records that are ‘privileged’ or ‘irrelevant’ to the case. It takes keen eyes, knowledge of law, and experience to know which questions to answer.
Also, your Answer to Interrogatories must be sworn. That is, you need to attach a verification page and notarize the document. This means that you are attesting that your answers to the questions are true and correct to the best of your knowledge.
What If I Ignore Discovery Requests?
If you ignore a discovery request and fail to answer, the court – after warning – can sanction you. A sanction can be a fine (money judgement), attorney fees for the other side, or dismissing your relief completely.
Also, as stated above, when your answer is beyond 30 days, your objections are waived and admissions are automatically admitted.
Therefore, it is important that you cooperate during discovery process. The discovery process in Texas is different from Federal law.
Don’t wait until time runs out. Whether you are involved in a civil litigation or family dispute, speak to an attorney right away.