"Discovery" is the formal procedure of information gathering. Information in a divorce case is needed to competently resolve financial and child-related issues.
An example of the need for financial discovery is where one spouse is unsure of all of the elements of the other spouse's income, or the worth or whereabouts of suspected marital assets. Among other things, discovery may compel a party to answer written questions (called "Interrogatories"), answer oral questions (called "Depositions"), and provide copies of documents (called "Notice to Produce"). Certain other information may be independently obtained by subpoena (e.g. bank or employment records), deposition, and witness interviews. An actuary may be retained to value a pension, an appraiser may be retained to value real estate, and a business valuator or auditor may be retained to determine the assets or worth of a closely-held corporation. Refusal to respond to a legitimate discovery request generally results in an appropriate sanction to the non-responding party. Mr. Ruggiero, a registered Certified Public Accountant, is well equipped to understand this financial data.
In a custody case, the discovery process is used to interview and depose potential witnesses; obtain opinion witnesses (e.g. a psychologist to state the best interest of a child); collect, organize, copy and provide trial exhibits; and subpoena psychological and other records. Local rules of most judicial districts generally require the parties to first try and mediate custody issues. If mediation is not successful, the next step may be that the judge orders both parties to be evaluated by a psychologist in order to discern which parent may be in the child's best interest for custody. Sometimes a child representative (an attorney or guardian ad litem) is appointed to be the "eyes and ears" of the court (this expense is usually charged to the parties). If one party disagrees with the recommendations of the court's psychological evaluator, that party in some circumstances is permitted to obtain a second opinion from another psychologist during which the parties and children may be observed, interviewed and tested a second time. This is all part of the information gathering process needed to resolve a custody dispute.
In a difficult case, it is very difficult to complete discovery within a year. And once discovery is completed, the court's trial call is often back-logged. Thus, it is not unusual for parties to wait over a year for trial after first filing for divorce. So that the case does not drag on beyond a year, the judge often has the attorneys report to court periodically to report on the "status" of discovery and the case.