In a divorce case, you’re able to issue subpoenas and engage in other forms of what’s called discovery. One of the most common forms of discovery are written questions that get served on the other party and, oftentimes, served on you. Those are called interrogatories.
In a divorce case, you can issue subpoenas that are reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence, so those can be quite broad and you can find out a lot by forcing people to come, sit at a conference table, raise their right hand, and swear to tell the truth. Having a skilled attorney, asking those questions at those depositions is critical.
In Georgia, you can refuse to answer a question sort of like taking the fifth amendment, but it’s called the Georgia Witness Privilege, and what that does is gives the party who’s asking the question a negative inference, because if somebody refuses to answer a question in a divorce case, it does get held against them because the other side gets to assume that the answer would have been bad.
Hiring a skilled attorney as soon as possible in a divorce or custody case is critical, because you want to preserve evidence, text messages and other things like that as soon as possible, because ultimately you’re going to need to show a judge what’s going on in the real world right now. And preserving evidence is critical.
We can get text messages off of phones. We can get direct messages off of social media accounts. If it exists in an electronic format, we can get our hands on it, and we can put an exhibit sticker on it, and get it in front of the judge.
I represented a woman in a custody case and her husband was an alcoholic, but she was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to prove it because he did a really good job of hiding it. We subpoenaed his credit card receipts, and I noticed that he went to the same gas station every other day and spent the exact same amount of money. Picked up the phone, and I called the attendant who worked at that gas station, and he knew exactly who I was talking about. “Oh, that’s the guy who buys a pack of camels in a 24 pack.” We were able to prove that this guy had an alcohol problem, because we paid attention, got into those credit card receipts, and picked up the phone and made that call.