In family law, discovery is the process in which your attorney will request and obtain information from the opposing party. One tool for discovery in Texas is Rule 194 of the Texas Code of Civil Procedure, Request for Disclosure. These are used to ask for basic information about the case, names of the parties etc.
Starting in 2021, Rule 194 is going to change. There is no longer going to have to be a request for disclosure. The opposing must provide certain information, even without a request. Here is the new rule 194(a)
(a) Duty to Disclose. Except as exempted by Rule 194.2(d) or as otherwise agreed by the parties or ordered by the court, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other parties the information or material described in Rule 194.2, 194.3, and 194.4.
So in the past, your lawyer would type up a “Request for Disclosure” or include that language in the divorce petition. Starting in 2021, that won’t be necessary. A party must answer certain questions without being asked. Which is new for Texas family law, and the new rule includes an entire section of required family law disclosures. Here is the new 194(c)-
(c) Content in Certain Suits Under the Family Code.
(1) In a suit for divorce or annulment, a party must, without awaiting a discovery request, provide to the other party a copy of:
(A) all documents pertaining to real estate;
(B) all documents pertaining to any pension, retirement, profit-sharing, or other employee benefit plan, including the most recent account statement for any plan;
(C) all documents pertaining to any life, casualty, liability, and health insurance; and
(D) the most recent statement 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 copy of:
(A) 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.
Currently, and this post was written in 2019, your lawyer had to request this information, and some courts had a policy of requiring it anyway. Hopefully, this change will lead to exchanging information earlier in family cases and makes the process more efficient. But maybe not, being ordered to deliver documents doesn’t always mean a party will deliver documents.