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What Is a Subpoena?

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A subpoena is a written order issued by a court, a lawyer, or an authorized administrative body. A subpoena orders the recipient to produce documents or give testimony relating to a legal case or investigation. Failure to comply can carry serious penalties. Subpoenas are useful in family law cases, including divorce, child support, and alimony.

Three Types of Subpoenas

Florida law recognizes two types of subpoenas:

  • The subpoena duces tecum: This type of subpoena requires the recipient to produce documents, records, or tangible evidence at a particular time and place. It is used to gather evidence.
  • The subpoena ad testificandum: This subpoena compels a witness to appear and testify at a deposition, hearing, or trial. 
  • The deposition subpoena: A deposition subpoena demands that a third party either produce documents for a deposition, appear to testify at a deposition, or both.

Each of these subpoenas are essential tools in the pretrial discovery process because they allow attorneys to collect evidence and testimony that supports their client’s position.

Who Can Issue a Subpoena?

The following parties can issue a subpoena under the right circumstances:

  • A court: A judge or the clerk of the court where a family law case is filed can issue a subpoena. Courts frequently issue subpoenas for court hearings or trials.
  • Attorneys: Lawyers representing parties in family law cases can issue subpoenas on behalf of the court. Florida’s legal framework allows attorneys to use these powers to compel the production of evidence and testimony.
  • Administrative agencies: Under certain circumstances, such as child support enforcement actions, Florida administrative agencies have the authority to issue subpoenas to gather necessary information.

When a lawyer issues a subpoena, they don’t necessarily need to secure a judge’s signature. Even without a signature, however, compliance with the subpoena is still mandatory, and failure to comply can trigger penalties. 

This process allows for efficient discovery and evidence gathering without the need for direct court intervention in every instance of a document or testimony request.

The Uses of Subpoenas in Family Law Cases

In family law cases, you can use subpoenas to compel the opposing party (or a third party) to produce:

  • Diaries, journals, or personal notes relating to family dynamics or personal conduct.
  • Employment and income information for child support calculations.
  • Financial documents to assess their financial status for alimony or child support determinations.
  • Emails and communication related to marital and child custody disputes.
  • Property deeds and asset valuations in disputes over divorce-related division of assets.
  • School records to support arguments for custody arrangements.
  • Text messages and call logs.
  • Bank statements and financial records in alimony and child support cases.
  • Medical or psychological records to evaluate a party’s health or fitness as a parent.
  • Therapist or counselor records to evaluate parenting ability.

The use of subpoenas is governed by the Florida rules of civil procedure and family law. 

Penalties for Ignoring a Subpoena

If you or the opposing party ignores a subpoena or inadequately responds to one, the court might:

  • Charge the offending party with contempt of court: Penalties can include fines and even jail time.
  • Order the offending party to pay compensation for any financial harm that the other party suffered, such as additional attorney’s fees.
  • Dismiss one of your claims.
  • Assume that the evidence withheld by the offending party would have been unfavorable to them.

A court is likely to reserve the most serious penalties for someone who deliberately refuses to respond to subpoenas or who repeatedly responds in an inadequate manner.

Using Subpoenas During Settlement Negotiations

You can use subpoenas as leverage in settlement negotiations. It is much easier to issue a subpoena once you have already filed a lawsuit, as subpoenas are an integral part of the pretrial discovery process.

Consult a Lawyer if You Need To Issue or Respond to a Subpoena

Subpoenas are powerful legal documents. In all likelihood, you will need legal representation to obtain an optimal result, regardless of whether you have received a subpoena or you plan to issue one.

Contact the Orlando Family and Divorce Law Firm of Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC for Help Today

For more information, contact our experienced Orlando family and divorce lawyers at Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC by calling (407) 831-0203 to schedule a free consultation.

Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC
815 N Magnolia Ave Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32803
United States

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