Discovery in Florida Divorces

June 29, 2015

The discovery process is an essential step in any litigation, including divorce, child custody, and other family law cases. During discovery, the parties obtain documents and information from each other in order to facilitate a fair and speedy trial or negotiation. In Florida, mandatory disclosure, in which several specified types of financial documents are exchanged, is required in family law cases. In addition to mandatory disclosure, there are five other types of discovery.

Requests for Production

A request for production lets the spouses obtain other documents in addition to those acquired through mandatory disclosure. Requests for production are written requests that the spouse produce a copy of the listed documents within thirty days. The spouse can object to producing the document or a part of the document. In the event of an objection, both spouses go before a judge to get a ruling on the matter.

Depositions

In a deposition, a party or a witness is questioned out of court and under oath, to obtain any information he or she might have on the case. Depositions can last anywhere from a few minutes to many hours. Both attorneys, both spouses, the person being deposed, and a court reporter are present at a deposition, which means that depositions are expensive. Depositions let the spouses know in advance how a party or witness will answer at trial. If they answer differently, a spouse can use the deposition to impeach their testimony.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are written questions. Spouses may send interrogatories to the other spouse, who is then required to answer them under oath. In divorce cases, the spouses may use the form Standard Family Law Interrogatories prepared by the Florida Supreme Court. Additionally, they may use up to ten more interrogatories of their own wording.

Requests for Admission

Requests for admission require the other party to admit or deny a list of facts. In Florida divorces, a spouse may prepare an unlimited number of requests. If the other spouse does not respond within thirty days, it is treated as an admission of the fact.

Subpoenas

Subpoenas are used to obtain documents from parties other than the spouse. For example, a spouse may subpoena financial documents from a bank.

Procedure and Purpose

Generally, a party can request documents from up to three years prior. A spouse or parent can get special permission from the court to request older documents and information if the party suspects that the other spouse has been moving funds around or dissipating assets for longer than that. The parties are only required to provide documents within their possession, custody, or control. After discovery is complete, the parties can begin mediation.

The purpose of discovery is transparency. By requiring the other side to disclose documents and respond to questions, both parties are better equipped to prepare for mediation or trial, and to present their best case to the court or to the mediator. This helps the outcome of the case to be as fair as possible.

A well-conducted discovery process is essential to any fair family law mediation process or trial. If you are considering divorce, disputing child custody, or involved in any other family law matter, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for an initial consultation.