Often in a divorce, the parties do not trust each other to fully disclose all of their assets or may believe that a spouse is intentionally hiding money or property from the other. A full and fair disclosure is necessary to be able to divide up the marital estate in a fair and equitable fashion.
In order to ensure that both sides are giving a full and fair disclosure in the divorce process, the court uses a process called discovery. The discovery process allows both parties to serve requests on the other in written form or through a deposition, where each party is required to respond with a sworn statement under oath. The importance of the statement being sworn to under oath is that the person is affirming that the information is true. If the other spouse finds out at a later date that information was incorrect or not disclosed, the court is able to penalize the party that made those statements. This may be done in a property division. Also, it affects the individual’s credibility in the eyes of the court.
If the parties enter an agreement based on the discovery and one party finds out at a later date that there was important information left out by the other party that would have substantially affected the property settlement, the court is able to reopen the agreement. The court is reluctant to reopen any agreement in general as it values the finality of agreements, but not disclosing information in discovery when formally requested is a major problem. Fortunately, it does not come up too often.
Finally, formal discovery requests are continuing in nature. That means that if a party has responded to discovery requests and something else comes up prior to the final resolution of the case, that party has a duty to supplement the initial responses. If a party does not do so and the other side or the court finds out, the agreement may be reopened on that basis as well.