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Discovery Cutoff

One of the most common questions from divorce litigants in San Diego is, “When will this end?”  Unfortunately, if one of the parties is determined to drag out the case and litigate every issue, there is not much the other side can do to speed up the process.  In general, each divorce matter proceeds according to the same timetable as it makes its way through the family court system.  Often the longest and most complicated phase of a case is the discovery phase.  During the discovery phase the parties gather documents and information to support their respective positions and in opposition to the other spouse’s claims.  If discovery is not complete, the Court will not set a trial date for the parties.

San Diego judges tend to give the parties leeway and time to complete discovery.  This means that if one side is finished their preparation of the case and ready to proceed to trial, but the other side is not, the judge will err on the side of caution and give the parties more time before setting a trial date.  This is one of the most frustrating aspects of the family law court system of parties who want to move the case forward to resolution. Eventually, when the discovery process is winding down or it becomes evident that one party is simply dragging out the case without legitimate cause, the court will set a discovery cutoff date.  The parties also have the ability to agree to a discovery cutoff date without appearing in court.

The code sections that govern discovery cutoff procedures explain that a party is entitled as a matter of right to complete discovery proceedings on or before the 30th day before the date initially set for the trial of the action.  This means that the parties cannot ask formally for documents, conduct depositions, or ask further interrogatories about a month before the trial date.  If the trial gets continued (as trials often do by the parties or on the court’s own motion), the discovery cutoff date remains the same. This requires the parties to be prepared for trial on the date initially set and discourages parties from requesting trial continuances only in order to conduct further discovery.

If the discovery cutoff date has passed in your case but you later discover new facts and information that are material to your case, you may need to reopen the discovery process.  If the other party will agree to reopen discovery, both sides will save significant time and fees.  If not, you must file a motion with the court to reopen discovery and provide the court with a good explanation  as to why this information has only come to light so late in the proceeding and why it is so important to your case.  If obtaining new facts and information through the discovery process will have a big impact on the outcome of your case and the timing of your request is not due to a lack of diligence, the court will likely reopen discovery for a limited time.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.