Like all legal matters, divorce actions rely on evidence to provide legal arguments. Each party has the opportunity to gather evidence to support their allegations.
An Orlando divorce lawyer might hire a private investigator to gather evidence. However, most divorce discovery is accomplished through mandatory disclosures and discovery tools.
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What Are the Mandatory Disclosures in a Florida Divorce Action?
Mandatory disclosures are required in all divorce actions; they are part of the divorce process. The court requires the parties to provide financial information to the other party within 45 days of service of the initial petition.
The parties must file a Certificate of Compliance with the court certifying they have complied with the mandatory disclosures. Mandatory financial disclosures in a Florida divorce case include:
- A financial affidavit
- Tax returns for the past three years
- Pay stubs for the past three months
- K-1, 1099, or W2 for the past year if you have not filed a tax return yet
- All deeds for the past three years, present leases, and promissory notes for the past year
- A statement identifying all sources of income during the past three months
- Loan applications during the past year
- Checking account statements for the past three months
- Banking account statements for the past year for all other accounts
- Brokerage account statements for the past year
- Current statement for retirement, profit sharing, pension plans, and deferred compensation
- Last statement and declaration page for health insurance and life insurance policies
- Tax returns for the past three years for trusts, partnerships, and corporations
- Credit card account statements for the past three months
- Promissory notes for the past year
- Written marital agreements
- Evidence and documents supporting claims that assets and debts are non-marital
- Court orders for spousal support and child support payments
The mandatory disclosures cover most financial matters the parties might need to build their case. However, your attorney can submit discovery requests directly to your spouse to obtain additional information and documentation.
What Is Discovery in a Florida Divorce Case?
Discovery is the process of gathering information and evidence in a civil case by exchanging information with the other party to the case. The Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure governs discovery requests between parties in a divorce action.
Parties are required to comply with discovery requests with very few exceptions. There are specific deadlines for complying with discovery requests. However, an attorney might request additional time to submit responses, which is usually granted if the request is reasonable.
Parties have a duty to supplement and amend discovery responses if they obtain additional information or documentation related to a discovery request. A party must also correct a discovery response if they realize the response was incorrect.
An Orlando divorce lawyer may use one or more discovery tools to gather additional evidence in your case. Common discovery tools used in a divorce case include:
Interrogatories are written questions sent to your spouse. The questions can ask for any relevant information. Your spouse must answer the questions under oath.
Requests for Production of Documents
The mandatory disclosures cover most financial documents, but there could be additional documents your attorney requests.
Documents requested could include:
- Records of safe deposit boxes
- Travel records
- Employment records
- All documents referred to in the responses to interrogatories
- Cell phone records
- Copies of opinions and reports from expert witnesses the party intends to use at trial
- Criminal records
- Pending lawsuits
- Medical records
- Social media archives
The responses to the requests for the production of documents are also under oath. The court can impose penalties if a party knowingly withholds documents they do not want to produce.
Requests for Admissions
An admission is a fact that the other party agrees to as being true. Requests for admissions can narrow the issues disputed in a divorce action. For example, you might ask that your spouse admits your inheritance from your mother is not marital property.
The requests are submitted to your spouse in writing. The responses must be in writing and signed under oath.
Depositions consist of testimony outside of court. A court reporter places the person under oath and records every word spoken during the deposition. Your attorney might take depositions of your spouse, witnesses, experts, and other parties with relevant information to the divorce action.
A subpoena is a court order requiring a party to appear to provide testimony in a case. Generally, a subpoena is issued if someone must appear in court or at a deposition to provide testimony.
A subpoena can also be used to obtain documents. For example, your lawyer might send a subpoena to your spouse’s cell phone provider for copies of records.
Can a Party Object to Discovery Requests in a Divorce Action?
Refusing to comply with discovery requests can result in court penalties and attorney’s fees for filing a motion to complete discovery. Instead of willfully failing to comply, an attorney might object to a discovery request.
The discovery process is an essential element of a divorce action. However, it can be abused, and parties may overstep the boundaries. For that reason, numerous objections can be raised to discovery requests.
Common grounds for objecting to discover requests include:
- Oppressive and overly burdensome requests that could be time-consuming and costly.
- Lack of relevance or overly broad requests that do not relate to any issues in the divorce.
- Vague or ambiguous requests that do not request specific information or documentation.
The court schedules a hearing if a party objects to a discovery request. The judge hears arguments from both sides before deciding whether to compel the party to comply with, modify, or deny the request.
Protecting Your Best Interests Throughout the Divorce Process
Our Orlando divorce lawyers use numerous tools to obtain information and evidence for your case. The discovery phase of your divorce action can be time-consuming. Complicated, contested divorce cases often involve extensive discovery requests.
We work with you to gather information and documentation required in response to discovery requests. We file objections and argue the matter before the judge if the requests are unfounded.
Even though you might be required to respond to requests, your spouse must do the same. The evidence we obtain through discovery can significantly impact the outcome of your divorce case.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Orlando Divorce Lawyers
Building a solid case based on evidence is the best way to achieve your desired outcome in a divorce case. Our legal team thoroughly investigates all aspects of your case and gathers evidence from all available sources. Contact our law firm today at (407) 831-0203 to discuss your situation with our experienced Orlando family law attorneys at Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC.