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Using discovery

southernshellgirl's picture

Dh and I are going pro se (without an attorney) in Court to protect SD from BM.

I say Dh and I because while he is the only one with standing to bring the suit, I am the woman behind the man acting as his legal assistant at getting him ready for Court in every way possible.

To be honest, it has really worked out for us so far. I feel that DH standing up there in Court without an attorney has gotten the attention of the judge in a very good way. She told my husband, "You have definently fought for the protection of your daughter, and I thank you for that."

Now I'm working on discovery to build our case to prove in final trial that even if Bm gets off the meth, she is still a danger and cannot be trusted with SD unsupervised.

We sent BM's attorney a request for production of documents and asked for everything her attorney asked of us in his discovery last year, plus tons more. We did not ask for her medical and psych records because I understand those to be privileged unless we get a court order.

How do we get the Court order?

CPS stated in their report that BM's psychiatrist said BM's mental illness makes her a danger to SD, and we have the report, but do we have to get the psychiatrist to testify for it not to be hearsay?

The more I try to research and understand, the more confused I get!

I appreciate any suggestions on this, or experience with discovery in family court at all.

Orange County Ca's picture

If you don't get help here try searching "free legal" and see what comes up on Google.

The last time I did that sort of stuff I went to my county legal library and found a book of procedures for Superior Court. It basically laid everything out. Then at the clerks office I ask the desk clerk to pull a file of a similar nature. I.e. a family law file where a subpoene was requested for the court to issue.

Files are public information but clerks don't have to sort through them unless they want to. If you can't cajole them into it then find the list of all files which usually has the type of case it is and start pulling family law cases to look for something to copy.

After a few times the clerk will get tired of your shotgun approach and get you the file you want.


There's an exception to everything I say.

onehappygirl's picture

First of all, I'm NOT an attorney and I cannot legally give legal advice, but I am just letting you know what you can possibly do. Check with an attorney or court rules in your county/state regarding this.

Try Requests for Admissions. These are a list of questions that she must admit or deny. In my state, you have 30 days in which to answer the requests for admissions. If they are not answered within that time, the requests are automatically deemed admitted. Be sure that you file the Requests for Admissions with the court, and file-stamp the copy you keep, so you have proof that you filed them. 30 days from the date of filing, you can go after her.

Like I said, check with an attorney or your court rules before you do this.


Love me or hate me, I'm still gonna shine!!!

IAMTHEMOM's picture

I have heard of the request for admissions. BF and I did not use it last time we went to court. How exactly does this help? How do you get BM medical history in court. We know BM was recently diagosed with Bipolar and attempted suicide(possibly more previous attempts). CAN WE get copies of these medical records.-IAMTHEMOM

Cinders's picture

It is not possible for you to obtain medical records for another person and it would be illegal for someone who has them to give them to you. However i don't see why you couldn't ask in court for a medical assesment of all of you. You have nothing to hide and it will show up her issues.

SouthernBelle04's picture

It may depend on the laws of your state. Here are some examples:

M. Sue Wilson, Law Offices (Minnesota):

Situation: A father came to me and told me he had a very young (one-year-old) son with a woman he had never married. He described the mother to me as very unstable. He was concerned about his son's well-being in the mother's care.

Approach: I started an immediate paternity action and got the father adjudicated as the child's father. We then began a custody case. I sought and obtained the mother's mental health records and was able to determine that she had an extensive mental health history including hospitalizations for suicide attempts. I insisted and succeeded on having the Court appoint a neutral Ph.D. psychologist to do a thorough evaluation, including psychological testing of both parties, and a review of all of the mental health records.

I was also told by another Minnesota attorney that in a child custody case, NOTHING is off limits if it affects the child's safety. You do have to file for a subpoena for the records though.

Another Example: Mental Health Association, New York State:

The mental health professionals who treat you, whether they are psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers or other therapists, are required to hold everything you tell them in confidence. That is, they may not speak to anyone about you or repeat what you have told them without your permission. However, when a child's custody or welfare are at issue, there are exceptions to this general rule under the law. First, all mental health professionals - as well as school and some other agency personnel - are required to report to the Department of Social Services if they believe you are abusing or neglecting your child. You need to be completely honest with your therapist if you feel you are in danger of abusing or neglecting your children, so that your family can get help immediately.

Second, the judge can order the written records of your mental health treatment to be provided to the court as well as the other parties in a case. These records are not currently protected by law.

Finally, nothing you tell to a court-appointed mental health professional is confidential. His or her role is to inform the judge regarding your ability to parent. This professional will be looking for evidence that you have the capability and desire to raise your children in a healthy way. While it is natural to communicate to everyone how much you want and need your child, these comments are sometimes viewed as your focusing on your needs instead of your child's. What judges and social workers want to know is that you are committed to meeting your children's needs, and can put their needs first.

mckenzie0806's picture

i work in an attorney's office in tn and "sunshine" is right around the corner from me. either include a Medical Authorization for BM to voluntarily sign for you to get the records, or ask the attorney if he would be willing to sign an Agreed Order to release the records to you. If not, you will have to do a Motion and go before the Judge. Let me knoow if you need anything!

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt..Abe Lincoln