What is the “Discovery” Portion of a Florida Divorce?

What is the “Discovery” Portion of a Florida DivorceIf you have been involved in a lawsuit outside of small claims cases, chances are you have had to go through a period known as discovery. This period of time usually involves several different tools to obtain information pertinent to the case in question. Divorce is no exception to this process, especially given the fact that there is a great deal of detailed, personal information that must be collected in order for a divorce to proceed.

Florida Divorce Discovery Basics

Generally speaking, discovery during divorce is the period of time after a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed in which financial records and other information pertinent to the shared and personal assets of the individuals involved in the divorce are collected. This process allows both sides to learn important information about the strengths of the other side’s case.

A discovery period is not necessarily automatically granted unless one is requested by the parties’ attorneys. When a period of discovery is allowed, the length of time for that discovery period will be set by the court. Your attorney or your spouse’s attorney may request to extend that period of time if he or she can prove a good reason to extend it, such as new information emerging at the end of the discovery period that is pertinent to the case and would require additional discovery in order to shed the proper light on it. The length of time granted for the discovery period and any extensions requested and approved will depend on a number of factors, especially the complexity of the particular divorce as well as applicable state and/or local rules related to divorce proceedings.

How is Florida Divorce Discovery Undertaken?

There are a variety of approaches to obtaining information during the discovery period of a Florida divorce. Usually, utilizing multiple approaches to gathering information is the best way to ensure that the results are detailed and comprehensive enough to satisfy their purpose. In discovery, there are multiple tools at an attorney’s disposal.

  • Subpoenas: Subpoenas are one of the best-known forms of discovery. A subpoena is an order form the court that commands a person to provide written or oral testimony under oath on the matter for which they are being called. A person can be subpoenaed to appear in court to provide this testimony, or may be subpoenaed to provide such testimony at a deposition. This is an especially helpful tool for compelling less cooperative people to provide needed information.
  • Depositions: Depositions are another well-known form of discovery. A deposition is a way of collecting testimony under oath from a witness outside of the courtroom. Generally, these are used to gain information from your spouse but they may also be scheduled for other pertinent witnesses. Both attorneys have an opportunity to question the witness involved, and a court reporter is present to create a transcript of the deposition.
  • Interrogatories: Interrogatories are questions drafted by an attorney. They will ask for detailed information about income, assets, allegations, and other important information related to your case. The answers to these questions must be truthful.
  • Request for Production: A request for production asks you to produce certain information required by the opposing attorney. This can include financial records like bank statements or investment portfolios. It can also request things such as credit card statements, check stubs, proof of income, travel records, and additional information seen as pertinent to the specific divorce.
  • Requests for Admissions: A request for admission asks a party to admit to a certain fact or set of facts that both sides agree are true. Doing so can expedite the divorce process because it negates the need for these facts to be proven in court. Such admissions might be as to how many marital children there are, who will pay for the children’s health insurances after the divorce, voluntary temporary alimony, etc.

Do I Have to Comply with Discovery Requests?

Yes, absolutely yes. While some lawyers will encourage you to be more creative with your responses and general compliance with discovery requests, there are severe consequences for impeding the discovery process or attempting to hamper your spouse’s case by providing false or misleading information. It is always in your best interest to be truthful and honest during legal proceedings, and being so may actually help you achieve a better outcome in the long-run.

However, as with many areas of the law, there are exceptions to the need to fully comply to discovery requests. For instance, if you have been requested to provide information that would otherwise be considered “privileged” by the court, you do not have to provide it. Examples of this type of information might include correspondence between you and your attorney regarding the case at hand because communication between attorneys and clients is usually protected by the attorney-client privilege. You may also be able to avoid complying with requests that cause undue burden or oppression, such as requests for excessive information that is not related to the case at all. An experienced family law attorney that has worked with various types of divorce can help you understand more about how to answer discovery requests during the divorce discovery process in Florida.

Help with Your Florida Divorce

There is a great deal of technical information involved in almost every divorce process, though the process is always unique to the individuals involved. If you are considering divorce or have made the difficult decision to pursue divorce, it is important that you work with a Florida family law attorney that has experience handling multiple types of divorce cases. Scott J. Stadler has dedicated his practice to ensuring client rights are protected during divorce and to advocating for the best interests of those clients. Contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation where you will have an opportunity to find out more information about the divorce process and what it might entail for you.