What is Discovery and How Can It Help in My Florida Divorce?
As you enter into a divorce case, you will be asked to provide a great deal of information and documentation to your attorney, the court and opposing counsel. This exchange of information between the parties is known as discovery and is regulated by Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. This information provides a general picture of the parties’ financial status and allows the parties to obtain evidence that could be relevant to any part of your divorce case. The law requires both parties to comply with the discovery process and only offers minimal limitations to withhold information. Your Orlando Divorce Attorney will work with you to ensure that you and your partner both comply fully with this process.
In a family law case, the first form of discovery is known as mandatory disclosures or discovery. These disclosures are required by the court in every case and are to be presented to the opposing party within 45 days of service of the initial petition or within 45 days of filing the petition. Your Orlando Divorce Attorney can work with you to compile these documents and explain the necessary requirements of each to you. The documents requested by the court in mandatory disclosure consist of:
- A financial affidavit
- Tax returns for the past 3 years
- W-2, 1099 or K-1 for the past year if your tax return has not yet been filed
- Pay stubs for the past 3 months
- A statement identifying all sources of income for the past 3 months
- All loan applications for the past 12 months
- All deeds for the past 3 years, all promissory notes for the last 12 months, all present leases
- Statements of all checking accounts for the last 3 months, and statements from the past 12 months of all other banking accounts
- All brokerage account statements for the last 12 months
- Most recent statement of any profit sharing, retirement, deferred compensation or pension plan
- Declarations page and last periodic statement of all life insurance policies and current health insurance policies
- Corporate, partnership and trust tax returns for last 3 years
- All promissory notes for the last 12 months and all credit card account statements for the last 3 months
- All written premarital or marital agreements entered into by the parties.
- All documents and tangible evidence supporting the party’s claim that an asset or liability is non marital
- Any court orders directing a party to pay or receive spousal or child support.
At the conclusion of mandatory disclosure, your Orlando Divorce Attorney may need to implement formal discovery to supplement some information provided by your spouse. Formal discovery can include interrogatories, depositions, request for admission and request for production.
Interrogatories are a list of written questions served upon an opposing party. The party must respond to each question, fully and truthfully, in a written format. A party may object to a question if deemed irrelevant to the issues in the case. A judge may rule on this objection at a later time. However, if a party refuses to answer, with no legal basis, they can face sanctions and, if they are found answering questions dishonestly, they can face perjury charges.
In contrast, depositions are form of formal questioning that occurs in person. Your attorney will orally question your spouse under oath, outside of a judicial proceeding. This allows your attorney to delve deeper into information obtained during the mandatory discovery process. Further, your attorney can require elaboration of answers that a written interrogatory may not be able to. These depositions will be recorded by a court reporter can be used at a later date in court if necessary.
The request for admissions, is a tool used by attorneys to ask direct and pointed questions. The only answers available to your spouse is admit or deny. These too come in a written format and are sworn to by the opposing party. Your partner will be required to admit or deny certain facts or laws that are relevant to the case. The testimony will be utilized as evidence for the remainder of the trial. If you partner is found to be dishonest during the proceedings, your Orlando Divorce Attorney will take action to hold your spouse accountable.
The final discovery tool used in a divorce case is a request for production. Similar to mandatory disclosure, this tool demands documents pertinent to the ongoing litigation. These documents typically are extensions of the mandatory disclosure. However, if your spouse refuses to comply your Orlando Divorce Attorney may obtain these documents from a third party institution through the process of a subpoena.
If you are contemplating divorce, it is important not to go it alone. Contact an experienced Orlando Divorce Attorney who can use a variety of discovery tools to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the divorce process.
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