Thinking about getting a divorce? Recently filed for divorce? Recently served with a divorce?
If you answered, yes, to any of these questions, you need to know about divorce disclosures.
For decades, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure encompassed requests for disclosures that allowed parties to serve their opposing parties with “requests” for disclosures. The Rules, and specifically Rule 194 which set out the requests for disclosures, were modified in 2021 to mandate mostly the same disclosures. The new rule, no longer upon request, sets forth an affirmative duty to gather and provide information, documents, and evidence; these are commonly referred to as the initial disclosures. And, these disclosures are due before any other discovery can be sought.
While this information was almost always requested by the opposing counsel, parties can no longer wait and see if these items will be requested. Instead, parties must start gathering all of this information and documentation immediately as it will have to be turned over.
What information, documents, and evidence must be gathered and provided?
- 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 amount and any method of calculating economic damages;
- 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;
- any settlement agreements;
- any witness statements;
- 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.
- In a suit for divorce, a party must provide the following, for the past two years or since the date of marriage, whichever is less:
- all deed and lien information on any real property owned and all lease information on any real property leased;
- all statements for any pension plan, retirement plan, profit-sharing plan, employee benefit plan, and individual retirement plan;
- all statements or policies for each current life, casualty, liability, and health insurance policy; and
- all statements pertaining to any account at a financial institution, including banks, savings and loans institutions, credit unions, and brokerage firms.
- In a suit in which child or spousal support is at issue, a party must provide:
- information regarding 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;
- 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
- the party’s two most recent payroll check stubs.
When is this information, documents, and evidence due? When must it be disclosed?
These items must be submitted to the opposing party within 30 days after the filing of the first answer or general appearance. This means that your lawyer must have the items even sooner so that they can review your responses and documents and prepare them for delivery by the due date.
What happens if the information, documents, and evidence is not disclosed?
Failure to disclose documents required by these disclosure rules can result in the court forbidding the use of this evidence at trial or other hearings. In some cases, failing to disclose could also result in sanctions (monetary penalties) against you.
What if all information, documents, and evidence cannot be located by the deadline? What if I learn of new information, documents, and evidence after the disclosure?
The initial disclosures can be supplement later, if the documents and evidence are not readily available to meet the deadline. However, a good faith effort must be made to gather the documents timely.
If you have questions or concerns about Rule 194 Disclosures, contact your attorney.