Articles Posted in Discovery

The rules of evidence can be challenging. Understanding it is a skill that must be honed and refined, which is what we try to do at the Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford. In this blog, we will discuss two of the most important evidentiary privileges and their importance in family law cases: the physician-patient privilege and the psychotherapist-patient privilege.medical-record

Statements made from an adult to their treating physicians/psychotherapists are absolutely protected from privilege, unless the issue is tendered or waived. Continue reading

emailMany people understand that, generally, confidential communications between a person and his or her attorney are protected by an evidentiary privilege called the attorney-client privilege. Evidence Code section 950-962 lays out in detail how the privilege works.

What this means is that if a party or attorney wanted to know the substance of a confidential communication between the other party and that party’s attorney, an objection of attorney-client privilege can be raised and the Court should sustain that objection (i.e. grant the request).

Only “confidential communications” are subject to the privilege and what defines a “confidential communication” has been up for debate. Certainly, there is a case that everyone should know about and those cases are the focus of this blog post. It turns out there are probably countless people sending communications to their attorneys thinking they are confidential when they are really not!

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Family Law gavelIn family law we spend a good deal of time talking about court orders.  There are orders for child support, orders for spousal support, custody orders, and orders for the payment of attorney fees.  Getting more specific, all of the aforementioned orders can either be interim orders (also called temporary orders) or they can be final orders. The point of this blog is to discuss court orders in a family law context and to provide some basic understanding of how, why, and when they are made.  This is only a basic discussion of orders, a topic that can be very complex.  For this reason, you should speak with a qualified family law attorney about your specific case so you can be certain you fully understand your rights. Continue reading

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As much as Johnny Depp has tried to keep the happenings of his divorce from Amber Heard under wraps, the media continues to report as their story unfolds. The latest headlines from Johnny and Amber’s divorce indicate that the parties have each set depositions of the other, which may or may not be postponed. Regarding the depositions, each of their attorneys have made varying allegations about the other party. It appears that although Amber showed up for a previously scheduled deposition date, Johnny’s attorneys were unable to take testimony from her because she was in the next room room crying, pacing, screaming, yelling, and laughing the entire time. Of course Amber’s lawyers say that this is completely false. Amber’s “people” also stated that it’s “highly unlikely that Johnny will appear and cooperate” for his upcoming deposition.

It is unlikely that when you think of the divorce process, you associate it with the taking of depositions. That is because depositions may not be as widely used in family as they are in other areas of law, but even so, depositions can be a valuable resource in a contested divorce matter. The following are some facts regarding depositions as they relate to divorce proceedings.


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On June 13 Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from her fourth husband, Michael Lockwood. While Lisa Marie isn’t the only star we’ve written about to go through multiple divorces, her specific case highlights a common and sometimes very complicated issue in divorce which occurs when one spouse has taken control of the finances and the other has little to no involvement in financial matters (the so-called “out spouse” is the one who stayed out of financial matters during the marriage).   Continue reading


We’ve been hearing a lot about the “Panama Papers” lately; the leak of millions of documents out of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca disgorging details of the firm’s wealthy clients hiding money via shell companies in various tax havens. Among those allegedly involved are world leaders, athletes, celebrities and businessmen.

As divorce attorneys, it is not uncommon that our clients are convinced that their spouse is hiding money. Continue reading


The State of California imposes very broad duties of disclosure between spouses that are in the midst of a divorce. Inevitably, a spouse will try to cut corners or try to defraud their spouse altogether in an attempt to get an edge in the divorce case. The Family Code has built-in provisions that severely punish or otherwise disincentivize this kind of behavior. We will talk about a few of these provisions below.

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Last week’s $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot created a frenzy like no other as people rushed out to buy their tickets for a shot at riches, the likes of which most of us can’t even fathom. There is no doubt that the frenzy and constant discussion of the billion dollar jackpot left each and every one of us daydreaming about what we would do if we were to stumble our way into such a large fortune. Of course we would pay off our debts, help out friends and family members, buy some cool new things…but did we consider the other not-so-pleasant effects that a lottery win so substantial might have on our lives? Perhaps after reading this, you won’t feel as bad that you weren’t one of the big winners!

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discovery-family-law-divorce.jpgOnce initial papers are filed to get the divorce process started (the petition and response) the next step is typically to gather all pertinent information regarding each spouse’s financial and personal information. Although both parties are required to prepare and serve declarations of disclosure, which outline each party’s income, expenses, assets and debts, discovery is usually a necessary tactic to gather additional information.

Discovery is vital to the divorce process because it allows both sides to examine exchanged information and documentation before determining how to properly divide up assets and debts. Revelations made during the discovery process are also helpful in calculating the appropriate amount of child support and spousal support.

Discovery can occur informally, formally or both. Informal discovery is when the parties and their attorneys simply request specific information or documentation in an email or letter to the opposing party/opposing counsel. Informal discovery indicates that the parties are willing to work together, but simply need more information to move forward in the case.

Formal discovery, on the other hand, typically indicates that the party is more litigious because formal discovery requires that opposing party and opposing counsel follow rigid procedures and timelines in responding to the discovery requests.

Discovery, whether formal or informal, may include some or all of the following: Interrogatories, Requests for Admission, Document Production and depositions.

  • Interrogatories are written questions from one spouse to the other that must be answered under penalty of perjury. The interrogatories may relate to any issue that is relevant to the divorce proceeding, such as employment information, details regarding financial accounts and information regarding the party’s health or living situation.
  • Requests for Admission, although not often utilized in family law, can be helpful when you need a party to admit or deny specific facts regarding divorce related issues.
  • Demand for Production of Documents are particularly helpful when the so called “out-spouse” does not have access to financial statements, documentation relating to a spouse’s business, tax documents, etc. It also is a way to get important information that a spouse may be trying to hide.
  • Depositions are when an attorney asks the opposing party (or expert, witness, etc.) a handful of questions during a face-to-face interview. Responses are required to made under oath. A court reporter will draft a transcript of everything that is said during the deposition. Depositions are helpful to get important facts out of the other party and also to see how that person will appear and conduct themselves at trial.

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failure-prosecute-wheel.JPGAnyone with access to cable television or the internet probably knows more about the Kardashian family than they know about their own family. The Kardashian clan has broadcast their ups, their downs, weddings, births, break ups and in Khloe Kardashian’s case, her divorce from former NBA star, Lamar Odom. More than 16 months ago, Khloe Kardashian filed for divorce from Lamar Odom amidst allegations of infidelity and drug abuse by the former Los Angeles Laker. And while Khloe appears to have moved on, given her highly publicized romance with French Montana, her divorce case is still pending in Los Angeles Superior Court; at least for now that is.

According to reports, if Khloe does not take further action to pursue her case, the Court will consider dismissing the case all together. Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 583.410, “The court may in its discretion dismiss an action for delay in prosecution pursuant to this article on its own motion or on motion of the defendant if to do so appears to the court appropriate under the circumstances of the case.”

Failure to prosecute in the family law arena would consist of one of three time frames. They are:
1. Failure to serve the summons and complaint within 2 years after the action is commenced against the Respondent [Code of Civil Procedure § 583.420(a)(1)];
2. Failure to bring the case to trial within 3 years after the action is commenced against the Respondent [Code of Civil Procedure § 583.420(a)(2)]; and 3. Failure to bring to retrial within 2 years after a mistrial, order granting retrial or reversal on appeal [Code of Civil Procedure § 583.420(a)(3)].

The exception to this rule is when there is a valid support order or custody orders pending. In that case, the court cannot dismiss a divorce case for failure to prosecute. One way to avoid having your case dismissed under Section 583.410 is to bifurcate the issue of marital status and ask the court to terminate your marriage. This means that you are divorced from the other party, but the court must still resolve the financial issues in your case. In this case, the court will not dismiss your case under Section 583.410
failure-prosecute-calendar.jpgIf your case is dismissed under Section 583.410, it will be as if you never filed for divorce in the first place. The six-month waiting period will start over again; you will have to file a new Petition for Dissolution, including paying the filing fee; and will have to perform all of the mandatory disclosure required by statute.
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