Requests for admissions can be a very effective tool in a family law case and are darned cheap fun. There are many tools for discovery (both sides exchanging information, often financial) in a family law case. Depositions are when either party, or a witness, has to answer questions under oath. This is a great way to get information, nail someone down on an answer, and have tools to impeach them in court if they give a different answer. The downside to depositions; very expensive. A court reporter, being paid hourly, is there in addition to the lawyers. In order to use it in court this conversation will get typed up in a transcript, which can run easily into hundreds of dollars.
Requests for admissions are very different. This is a list of statements that the other party must admit or deny. If they do not do either, the Court must treat all of those statements as admitted, or proven true. If the party denies something that turns out to be true,the Judge will be shown that person is not credible and there can be attorney’s fees awarded based on the dishonesty. The same is true if the party objects to the statements and the Judge thinks they should have answered them. If the facts are admitted, it is very fast and easy to establish those facts at trial.
It is important that the statements in a Request for Admissions be worded effectively. There cannot be any wiggle room for admitting or denying the statement. For example if you want to establish that the other spouse has dissipated (used improperly) marital money for travel with a lover, you would not use
“You have traveled frequently with M. Doe”..because that does not prove anything about using marital funds
You might use a series of statements that directly involve using marital funds such as
“You have paid money for expenses related to travel with M. Doe at least once in the last 12 months”
“You have paid to purchase airfare travel for a trip with M. Doe at least once in the last 12 months”
* “You have utilized Visa # ***1234 during personal travel with M. Doe at least once in the last 12 months”
There can only be one issue per statement so that it is clear what is being admitted or denied. For example, if the statement is “You have purchased personal meals or travel with marital credit cards” is a poorly worded statement, if the answer is yes, it could be that they have used a joint credit card for meals or travel that is personal or for entertaining M. Doe. One would arguably be marital and proper, and the other not.
Just as in depositions or other types of discovery, Request for Admissions can cover areas not permitted in court room testimony. In discovery, any question or request that “might” lead to evidence that could be used in court is permitted, where as in trial only evidence that fits the formal rules of admissibility can be presented. This means that there is very wide latitude when asking questions in Requests for Admissions, and typically if a court believes that they are intended to get to permitted evidence they will allow them. The court can limit either the amount of questions or the subject matter of discovery if those questions are unreasonable or only intended to harass.
If you are on the receiving end of request for admissions, an objection can and should be filed in response to any questions that are unclear, compound, or unreasonable. Otherwise, answer the questions honestly and timely in order not to not suffer the consequences discussed above, and talk to your lawyer about filing your own!