For individuals who have used family law attorneys in the past, many are shell-shocked with the raise in initial retainers across the board. It’s not attorney greed, this article explains what the hike in prices is all about.
Beginning January 1, 2021, the Texas Legislature passed new discovery rules that apply to Texas Family Law cases. They are as follows:
Rule 194.2 Initial Disclosures (2021)
(a) Time for Initial Disclosures. A party must make the initial disclosures within 30 days after the filing of the first answer or general appearance unless a different time is set by the parties’ agreement or court order. A party that is first served or otherwise joined after the filing of the first answer or general appearance must make the initial disclosures within 30 days after being served or joined, unless a different time is set by the parties’ agreement or court order.
(b) Content. Without awaiting a discovery request, a party must provide to the other parties:
(1) the correct names of the parties to the lawsuit;
(2) the name, address, and telephone number of any potential parties;
(3) the legal theories and, in general, the factual bases of the responding party’s claims or defenses (the responding party need not marshal all evidence that may be offered at trial);
(4) the amount and any method of calculating economic damages;
(5) the name, address, and telephone number of persons having knowledge of relevant facts, and a brief statement of each identified person’s connection with the case;
(6) a copy – or a description by category and location – of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the responding party has in its possession, custody, or control, and may use to support its claims or defenses, unless the use would be solely for impeachment;
(7) any indemnity and insuring agreements described in Rule 192.3(f);
(8) any settlement agreements described in Rule 192.3(g);
(9) any witness statements described in Rule 192.3(h);
(10) in a suit alleging physical or mental injury and damages from the occurrence that is the subject of the case, all medical records and bills that are reasonably related to the injuries or damages asserted or, in lieu thereof, an authorization permitting the disclosure of such medical records and bills;
(11) in a suit alleging physical or mental injury and damages from the occurrence that is the subject of the case, all medical records and bills obtained by the responding party by virtue of an authorization furnished by the requesting party; and
(12) the name, address, and telephone number of any person who may be designated as a responsible third party.
(c) Content in Certain Suits Under the Family Code.
(1) In a suit for divorce, annulment, or to declare a marriage void, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other party the following, for the past two years or since the date of marriage, whichever is less:
(A) all deed and lien information on any real property owned and all lease information on any real property leased;
(B) all statements for any pension plan, retirement plan, profit-sharing plan, employee benefit plan, and individual retirement plan;
(C) all statements or policies for each current life, casualty, liability, and health insurance policy; and
(D) all statements pertaining to any account at a financial institution, including banks, savings and loans institutions, credit unions, and brokerage firms.
(2) In a suit in which child or spousal support is at issue, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other party:
(A) information regarding all policies, statements, and the summary description of benefits for any medical and health insurance coverage that is or would be available for the child or the spouse;
(B) the party’s income tax returns for the previous two years or, if no return has been filed, the party’s Form W-2, Form 1099, and Schedule K-1 for such years; and
(C) the party’s two most recent payroll check stubs.
(d) Proceedings Exempt from Initial Disclosure. The following proceedings are exempt from initial disclosure, but a court may order the parties to make particular disclosures and set the time for disclosure:
(1) an action for review on an administrative record;
(2) a forfeiture action arising from a state statute;
(3) a petition for habeas corpus;
(4) an action under the Family Code filed by or against the Title IV-D agency in a Title IV-D case;
(5) a child protection action under Subtitle E, Title 5 of the Family Code;
(6) a protective order action under Title 4 of the Texas Family Code;
(7) other actions involving domestic violence; and
(8) an action on appeal from a justice court.
As can be seen, once a party files an answer to a family law case, both parties must supply the above information known as Rule 194 disclosures within 30 days of the filing of the answer. This can consume time and money for litigants in cases that they need to be aware of. The information includes not only the typical Rule 194 disclosures but also asset and financial information for each party. Certain cases are exempt such as IV-D attorney general cases and CPS cases for example. It is advisable to work with your attorney to properly respond to the disclosures by the deadline and be aware of the increased costs associated with having to respond to same.
Fortunately, at The Werner Law Group, we employ a team of paralegals and other staff that can help you supply and organize these materials for our attorneys. The support staff and paralegals have a much lower hourly rate than the attorneys, and this helps us keep costs to the client as low as possible. If you want to get started on a legal case with a productive, strategic team, contact us today! We respond to texts and emails seven days a week.