Episode 1 is our first ever episode so please bear with us as we navigate this new endeavor. In Episode 1 we cover an overview of what was important to our website viewers in 2022, our practice philosophy, and our goals for this podcast.
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Episode #1: Divorce Financial Interrogatories
[00:13] Erin Birt: Hi, this is Erin Birt, attorney and mediator with the Law Firm of Erin Birt. I'm joined today with my paralegal.
[00:20] Tyler Birt: My name is Tyler Birt with the Law Firm of Erin Birt.
[00:24] Erin Birt: All right, well, today we are just going to rehash what 2022 looked like for the firm, to talk about some divorce trends and what people are looking up online, what they are interested in learning more about for their divorce so that hopefully we can predict some trends for 2023.
[00:46] Tyler Birt: Sounds good.
Why Marital Financial Interrogatories?
[00:47] Erin Birt: All right. So this morning when I was looking up some information, something that really I found interesting was that even though we promote settlement based services and our practice philosophy is that let's keep things out of family law court, the number one thing that people were looking for on our website in 2022 was how to respond to marital interrogatories. And what marital interrogatories are is half of the discovery process in family law cases. And that's where you're served with approximately 28 questions. It might not even be 28 questions, but you're served with questions that you need to answer under oath. And that is a litigation tactic. It's necessary in litigation if you're proceeding to trial. But in 2022, that was the number one thing people found interesting on our website. I think that just speaks volumes about where people are in the process. They might not know about other options. They're probably following the traditional approach to divorce that their parents did, their neighbors did, their best friend did. Because even though we have a plethora of information about why we want to stay out of discovery or why we want to stay out of the court system on our website, that's the number one page that people were reading about.
[02:30] Tyler Birt: Well, I think it goes to show that that's what people know. They don't know about the alternatives to the litigated process of divorce. And a lot of attorneys, especially in the area, they practice litigated divorce. You know, client comes in, you sign them up, and then you file paperwork and you start the process. And that 2nd, 3rd step of the process is interrogatories.
[03:11] Erin Birt: Yeah, I mean, the attorneys will have an equation and it's: file a petition, start gathering documents from their own client, but issue discovery to the other party as soon as possible. And that is where the bulk of, I think, your legal fees increase. And I don't think every case has to go through that process, but there are attorneys that automatically serve discovery requests, these interrogatories. And so it looks like a lot of people in our community are receiving interrogatories because they're looking up: How do I respond to those?
How to Get Answers to Your Questions
I put this information on our website just to help either somebody who's representing themselves or to get people to our website to learn about interrogatories, but then hopefully also navigate to other pages to learn there are options. I don't think other options out there are “less than litigation”, you can still accomplish this idea of posing questions and having them truthfully responded to in mediation, in collaborative divorce, in settlement based divorces. Because anytime you go through divorce planning or a particular divorce process, you have to support what you're saying, not only to your attorney, but to the other side. And to me, that really can replace that extensive and expensive discovery litigation process. Because anything that comes into our office, right, we're always asking for what statements support, tell us what your marital estate looks like. But then we also need backup for that because we're essentially writing a contract for you and we have to know all that information.
And so to me, when I saw this morning that our number one viewed page with over 3000 views is how to respond to marital interrogatories, I think we've got some work to do. I think we can educate more people that you don't have to go through litigation to have your questions answered. You can do that in mediation. Any mediator worth their salt is going to say you got to support what you're saying. You can do this in settlement based divorce because you're going to want work with you (Tyler), right? And say, here's my most recent statements. And then if we have questions, we might ask for some more statements. But there always has to be support for what your marital state looks like and we're going to ask questions. The other side inevitably, in any settlement based case, is going to ask questions and we have to answer them honestly.
So it's an opportunity for us, I think, to educate the public that you don't have to go through litigation to get your answers.
[06:00] Tyler Birt: Exactly. I think the alternatives to litigation are ideal for 90% of the public. I think there is cause for litigation and absolutely there are times when you can't do anything else. However, I think most people, especially these days, I don't think it always used to be like this, but especially these days, I think people for the most part just want to be apart.
But much like getting married, getting divorced is a process of trust as well because you have to represent everything that you've been hiding from your partner.
[06:53] Erin Birt: Or not willing to share because you're going through a tough time, right? But I think to your point, I'm not dismissive of litigation. There are times when I might consult with somebody and there are issues of a disparity and knowledge of their marital estate, or there might be mental abuse, or there might be significant active substance abuse going on where, you know what? You might need the court to monitor your discovery process or the exchange of documents or be available for any type of repercussions if somebody feels they could just blow off the process, right? Yes, so there's valid needs for the court system.
Alternatives to Divorce Litigation
But again, it's shocking to me so many people in our community is looking up: How do I respond to these questions? They could reach out to us. We could have a planning session where maybe you don't need an attorney from A to Z, but you do need somebody to help you respond to these. We can work with clients in that fashion as well, but we can also then educate you about how do we get out of the litigation process sooner rather than later. Or at least give you a second opinion as to do you need to proceed to trial, or is there an opportunity during this discovery process to settle your case so that you're not investing in a very expensive trial?
So I think there's a lot of opportunities based on this information. But again, some work to do. Some work to do to educate the public that you can accomplish and protect yourself and protect your children through mediation, through settlement based divorce work, through uncontested divorce work.
That's what my hope for this podcast: to just start educating others about the options so that they can preserve their marital estate, they can show their children, if they have children, that they can work together and move beyond this.
[09:00] Tyler Birt: Yes, exactly.
If you are considering a change because of a family law issue or a divorce, you may want to also read about our services for: Divorce, Uncontested Divorce, Collaborative Divorce, Family Law Mediation, Child Custody, Child Support, Client Wellness, and Legal Wellness Services.