When spouses and their attorneys exchange information in a divorce case, it is called discovery. Formal discovery happens mainly in the form of interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions. Interrogatories elicit answers to questions; and the production of documents provides copies of statements and forms containing needed information. Oftentimes, there are the only two methods needed. A deposition (when someone is questioned on the record, in the presence of a court reporter) is used to follow up on answers to interrogatories, and production of documents, if needed; or to in place of the other two methods if someone is not cooperative. There are other methods, such as a request for admissions and authorizations for the release of information (from third parties), which can be enlisted as well to follow up, or as alternative avenues when someone is not cooperative.
Formal discovery follows certain time frames, such as 30 days to respond to interrogatories and requests to produce, and consequences that the court can impose if a party fails to comply.
Informal discovery dispenses with the formalities, and the fixed time frames, when the parties and their attorneys mutually agree to carry out the exchange of information cooperatively.