My wife doesn’t want a divorce, so she is making everything about the process extra hard and extra expensive. When I first asked for the divorce, she said she was going to bankrupt me — I’m starting to believe it. When my lawyer said the rules require me to turn over documents or fill in complex forms I did it. I may not like the rules, but I follow them.
My wife couldn’t agree that I should have any overnight parenting time with our kids because “she always puts them to bed.” So, now we have an expensive Guardian Ad Litem and I had to pay half — another total waste of money.
My lawyer now tells me that I need something called a discovery master and that I will have to pay for that service too. Can you explain what a discovery master is, why I need one and how I can stop my wife from her stated goal of bankrupting me?
Divorce is an expensive process when at least one party wants to have a fight. The most complicated of cases with significant assets and children can be resolved for little money if people share the motivation to reach an agreement. Clearly her intention is to punish you for some perceived wrong.
A discovery master is a lawyer or retired judge who all discovery disputes are brought before instead of trying to get in front of the judge hearing your case. They can be an invaluable tool. Yes, they charge fees, but the cost is less than going to court. Given the state of the court system in light of the pandemic where many judges are still not hearing anything that is not an emergency, a discovery dispute can stop any forward progress in the overall case. You cannot get to the step of a pretrial conference or trial dates if you do not first engage in discovery. You need someone who can be easily accessed to make her engage.
Make sure when your lawyer prepares the motion for the master appointment, the proposed order includes the right for the master to shift his/her fees for bad conduct and the right to assess sanctions for discovery abuse. Your wife will likely “appeal” the rulings of the discovery master to the judge assigned to your case, so the proposed order should also make clear the judge can order the losing party who appeals such a ruling to pay the full cost of both sides for the appeal. With any luck, your wife will see the downside risk associated with her conduct and begin to follow the rules.
If not, at the end of the day, the judge will take into consideration your respective conduct during this process and can make you whole in the asset division, including reassessing GAL and master fees. At that point, your wife will realize how badly her plan backfired.