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Before the Trial

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Does discovery happen in every case?

Discovery does not happen in every case. There is discovery in most civil court cases where one party sues another party for money damages except, small claims court. Cases that involve discovery can sometimes take a year or more from start to finish.

Other cases happen much quicker, sometimes called “summary proceedings,” where there might be less formal discovery or no automatic discovery at all. Family court cases, other than divorce, will fall into this category in some states, as well as most eviction proceedings. In cases where discovery is less formal, you may be able to request documents by writing a letter to the other side or even by orally asking for them in some cases.

The court itself will handle discovery in some cases, like child support, where parties are required to turn financial documents into the court. In cases where the court itself handles discovery, usually the court clerk will send out a letter to the parties to request necessary documents or information. The parties have to send this information to the court by the date on the letter. Sometimes the clerk will include a court order listing the required documents if a judge puts the request in a court order. You usually have to send in the information or documents before the first court date.

If you are involved in a court case and you believe that discovery may benefit you, you might be able to ask the judge or the court clerk if there is discovery allowed in your case. The judge can sometimes grant discovery even if it is not automatic in a certain case. This section will provide a basic overview of some of the tools that a party can use to get discovery from the other side and how to respond to discovery requests that you get.