Standard Interrogatories in Virginia Family Law

By Wayne Thomas

Divorces can involve a lot of paperwork in Virginia. In addition to mandatory court filings, each spouse has the right to make written requests directly to the other spouse in an effort to obtain information relevant to reaching a fair settlement or preparing for trial. This process is referred to as discovery, and it can involve several formal techniques. One method is through the use of interrogatories, a list of questions touching on issues related to a spouse's finances, parental fitness and the witnesses he intends to call at trial.

Role of Interrogatories

In Virginia, interrogatories can cast a wide net. Essentially, they can be used to gather evidence that is relevant to proving your claims in the divorce proceeding, provided that the questions are not too broad and do not ask for privileged information. Although interrogatories and responses are typically handled between the parties, the court can be called upon to order a party to answer interrogatories if she refuses.

Financial Questions

Locating and placing a correct value on all marital assets and debts is an important part of ensuring a correct division of property in a divorce in Virginia. In addition, a spouse's employment and income information can be crucial in setting alimony awards and for calculating child support. For this reason, divorce interrogatories typically contain questions about the parties' financial situations. Example of such financial questions might be, "Describe all of your debts and other financial liabilities or obligations in detail" or "Specify the source and amount of all of your income in detail."

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Custody Questions

If you have minor children, you may use the interrogatories to ask your spouse questions relevant to child custody. Virginia courts take several factors into consideration in deciding which parent should be awarded custody, including the proximity of the parent to the child's school and activities; any evidence of domestic violence; the needs of both parties; and most important, the best interests of the child. Examples of custody-related interrogatories might be, "Provide your current address, and name any other individuals residing at the address" or "Describe in detail the nature of any crime in which you were arrested, whether or not you were ultimately charged or convicted."

Witness Questions

Interrogatories can also be useful in gaining advance notice of the witnesses your spouse intends to present at the divorce hearing. It can also provide you with insight as to how your spouse will use these witnesses in substantiating his claims. Further, certain questions can also be helpful in gathering information about people who could potentially be used as witnesses in your case. An example of a standard interrogatory question regarding witnesses might be, "Identify all witnesses whom you expect to call as a witness at trial, and state the subject matter on which he or she is to testify."

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