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Understanding Discovery Responses

Shelly Jean John, Attorney at Law Oct. 29, 2020

Some 450,000 people use legal self-help programs in California every year to help save on the expense of hiring a lawyer. However, certain requirements can be confusing including how to respond appropriately to discovery requests from the opposing side. Knowing your rights and obligations is an important part of the legal process.

At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I’ve been an advocate for family law clients in Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County, California, for more than 20 years. I collaborate with people as much or as little as they need to guide them as they pursue legal action on their own. Contact me today for a consultation.


The discovery process is used to gather any evidence needed to resolve a legal issue. It’s a way to obtain information from the other party you may not have access to. For example, if you’re seeking spousal support, opposing counsel may need documentation about your finances, including salary, investments, bank accounts, and other assets.


The demand for inspection, or production, of documents, is one discovery tool used by both parties to assemble any information needed to present their case. There are 8 key issues you need to consider:

  1. Due date. Your response is due 35 days from the date the Proof of Service is signed by the other party. You can request an extension; however, you need to make sure you preserve your objections to any demands.

  2. Objections. You can file objections with the court to demands beyond the scope of discovery. But the parties have the right to demand any documents relevant to or might lead to documents relevant to their case.

  3. Period of time. Demands must specify the period of time for which the documents are requested. For example, three years of bank statements. Demands that don’t specify time are objectionable.

  4. Documents being requested. You’re required by the rules of discovery to provide all documents for the period requested unless you have filed an objection to certain documents. Failure to do so might result in court sanctions.

  5. Reason for missing documents. If you have a valid reason for not providing certain documents, you must state that reason in your response. If you have access to only two years of bank statements, for example, you need to provide those and state why you haven’t provided the third year.

  6. Supply information for locating missing documents. In responding that you do not have some documents, you must provide the information necessary for the other party to request them. For example, the account number, bank name, address, and phone number for the missing year of statements. If the documents demanded never existed, you must state so.

  7. Lost, destroyed, or stolen documents. If documents requested were lost, destroyed, or stolen, specify that in your response. Provide any information that would permit the other party to obtain them.

  8. Receipts. Few people keep receipts for things like utility payments or groceries. If you don’t have the receipts requested, you must state so in your response. If that information is accessible another way, specify where they might be found. For example, you buy groceries using your debit card, so that information is reflected in your bank statements.


Remember these important tips for responding to a demand for documents:

  • Organize documents. Organize according to the demand number. For example, label the bank statements Exhibit A – Demand 1.

  • Don’t duplicate documents. If you’re providing three years of bank statements in response to one demand, and the same documents contain information responsive to another demand, state so. For example, “See Exhibit A – Demand 1.” Don’t provide two sets of the same statements.

  • Comply with the due date. Tab and label your documents and submit them by the due date.

  • Communicate. If for some reason you are unable to meet the due date, communicate with the other party to avoid the appearance of simply not complying.

  • Do a complete job. Provide all unobjectionable documents requested and any information necessary for the other party to locate them if you lack access to them.

The demand for the production of documents is a right afforded to both sides of a legal issue. Being as compliant as possible is not only a requirement, it’ll also help to make the process smooth and more productive.


It is possible for you to tackle discovery responses without the assistance of a family law attorney. You just need to make sure you respond in a complete and timely manner.

However, if you need some help along the way, call the Law Office of Shelly Jean John. I assist clients in their efforts to represent themselves in family law matters in Ontario and Riverside, California. I have a wide range of experience in family law and consulting and I offer diverse legal solutions to help you and your family move forward.