With the start of the new year comes new discovery rules from the Supreme Court of Texas. The significant changes to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure apply to cases filed after January 1, 2021.
If a new client’s case is filed after January 1, 2021, there are certain documents and information that you are now required to provide to the other side no later than 30 days after filing an answer or making a general appearance. Previously, you were not required to provide the below information until formally requested by the opposing party or as required by local standing order. Now, you must provide the information or risk not being allowed to fully present the case at a hearing or trial.
Persons with Knowledge
A person with knowledge is someone who has knowledge of relevant facts about the case. Obvious people are the client’s family members and friends. Other people that have knowledge about the case might include teachers or coaches of the client’s children; doctors; counselors; financial advisors; co-workers; or neighbors of the client. Any person who could possibly be a witness in the case or provide testimony must be listed as a person with knowledge. While there is an opportunity to update this list throughout the case, the initial “Persons with Knowledge” list must be provided or you risk witnesses being excluded from testifying.
If the case is a divorce (with or without children), there are certain client financial documents that must be provided. The time period for the following documents is the past two years. If the client has been married less than two years, the required time period is since the date of marriage:
- All bank statements, including any accounts on deposit with any financial institution, savings and loan institution, credit union, or brokerage.
- All statements for any pension plan, retirement plan, 401(k), SEP/IRA, profit-sharing plan, or other employee benefits account.
- Documents including declaration/benefits page and premium notices for all life, casualty, auto insurance, umbrella, liability, and health insurance.
- Tax returns for the past two years including IRS Forms W-2, 1099’s, and Schedule K-1’s.
The following property documents are required if the case is a divorce (with or without children). As with the financial documents above, the time period for the property documents is the past two years unless the marriage is less than two years. If the client does not have the documents in his/her possession, the client should contact the mortgage lender, title company, and/or County Clerk’s office in order to take every reasonable effort to obtain documents:
- Documents relating to real estate owned or leased by the client and client’s spouse, including property owned prior to marriage and property that was inherited.
- Closing documents.
- Mortgage statements.
Cases with Children
If a child is involved in the case, whether a divorce, suit affecting the parent-child relationship, or child support, the client must provide the two most recent paystubs. The following documents for the past two years are also required:
- All policies, statements, and the summary of benefits for medical, health, and dental insurance available for a child or client’s spouse.
- Tax returns for the past two years including IRS Forms W-2, 1099’s and Schedule K-1’s.
While there are some exceptions for cases such as protective order cases, generally the disclosure of the above documents is not optional. For a more complete summary of the new discovery rules, you can read Michelle May O’Neil’s Summary of New Discovery Rules 2021 or view her video post update.