The father filed to modify custody of two children. He sent interrogatories and document requests to the mother under the Discovery Rules of the Court.
Discovery is a process in which you can ask questions and request documents from the other side. The purpose of discovery is to avoid surprises at trial and foster settlement. If you fail to answer discovery, the court can order sanctions.
Sanctions are penalties. For example, the court can order you to pay the other party’s attorney fees, order a certain issue as decided, or prevent you from offering evidence at trial.
The mother claimed she did not answer many of the father’s requests because they were not relevant. She also said the father already had many of the documents from prior litigation in the case.
The father asked the court to order sanctions against the mother for failing to adequately answer his discovery requests. The trial court agreed with the father and ordered sanctions against the mother. As a result, the court ruled that she would not be allowed testify at trial about certain issues. The court also ordered that she could not introduce any documents at trial that she had failed to produce in discovery.
See anything wrong with this? “The rules are on this side of the library and the exceptions are on the other side.” – Law School Librarian.
Exception for Custody Cases
In A.A. vs. Ab.D, 246 Md. 418, 228 A.3d 1210 (2020), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals said the best interests of the children overrides the discovery rules. The trial court could not decide a custody case without considering all the evidence available.
It was error to prohibit evidence from the mother even if she did violate the discovery rules. Consequently, the case was reversed and remanded for a new trial in which the mother will be allowed to testify fully and offer the prohibited documents into evidence.