Evidence – Discovery – New Jersey
Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive summary of discovery law in New Jersey, but does include basic and other information.
Discovery: A procedure designed to allow disclosure of information between Plaintiffs and Defendants. Written questions, oral questioning, document production and admissions requests are generally allowed. Discovery was designed to to prevent trial by ambush.
Interrogatories: Written questions from Plaintiff to Defendant, or from Defendant to Plaintiff. The questions are mailed to the Plaintiff, Defendant or the attorney for response in writing. The answers or responses are usually due between 20-30 days.
Deposition: A procedure where verbal questions are asked a Plaintiff or Defendant for immediate response. Depositions are usually recorded by a court reporter, who swears the person to tell the truth before questioning begins.
Production of Documents: The method of obtaining documents from the other party relevant to the case such as all documents a party intends to introduce at trial.
Requests for Admissions: Written questions where you request the other party to admit or deny some relevant fact.
Objections: Objections may be made to all discovery questions if the questions are not relevant, or likely to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.
Civil Procedure Rules: Virtually all states have adopted a version of civil procedure rules which include rules dealing with discovery.
New Jersey Rules of Civil Practice
New Jersey has adopted rules governing practice in Chancery Court pretrial discovery proceedings for the Family Division. These rules are applicable in divorce proceedings.
Note: The rules cited in Rule 5:5-1 of the Chancery Court pretrial procedures refer to the rules governing civil practice in the Superior Court.
Rule 5:5-1 of the Chancery Division provides:
Except for summary actions and except as otherwise provided by law or rule, discovery in civil family actions shall be permitted as follows:
(a) Interrogatories as to all issues in all family actions may be served by any party as of course pursuant to R. 4:17.
(b) An interrogatory requesting financial information may be answered by reference to the case information statement required by R. 5:5-2.
(c) Depositions of any person, excluding family members under the age of 18, and including parties or experts, as of course may be taken pursuant to R. 4:11 et seq. and R. 4:10-2(d)(2) as to all matters except those relating to the elements that constitute grounds for divorce.
(d) All other discovery in family actions shall be permitted only by leave of court for good cause shown except for production of documents (R. 4:18-1); request for admissions (R. 4:22-1); and copies of documents referred to in pleadings (R. 4:18-2) which shall be permitted as of right.
(e) Discovery shall be completed within 90 days from the date of service of the original complaint in actions assigned to the expedited track and within 120 days from said date in actions assigned to the standard track. In actions assigned to the priority or complex track, time for completion of discovery shall prescribed by case management order.
Domestic Actions Discovery Notes
If you require extra time to respond to discovery, you should ask the other side for an extension in writing. It may also be necessary to enter an order granting the extension to protect your rights. Discovery questions are limited in number so select the most important questions to ask the other side. Don’t waste your requests writing questions that you already know the answer to.