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What is “Discovery” in Family Law Cases?

What is “Discovery” in Family Law Cases?

If you are involved in a family-law case, chances are you have been asked to complete a Financial Affidavit or produce financial documents to your attorney or spouse. In fact, any case that involves the division of property, the establishment of alimony, or the calculation of child support, requires both parties in the case to exchange financial information that may be used as evidence at trial and considered by the Judge when making decisions in these areas. The only time you can “waive” exchanging financial information and documents is when your case is uncontested. Uncontested means the parties have no joint assets or debts and they have agreed to the terms of their divorce.

In every family-law case, except the uncontested ones, both parties are required to exchange Mandatory Disclosure within the first forty-five days following service of process. This involves the parties each completing a sworn Financial Affidavit and producing certain documents such as twenty-four months of bank statements, Lease and mortgage documents, 12 months of credit card statements, retirement account statements, Tax Returns, paystubs, and other such records. A Financial Affidavit is a document, usually 12 pages long, that you are required to fill out that discloses your income, both gross and net, your monthly expenses, your assets, and your debts/liabilities, and other such financial information. A Financial Affidavit is a sworn document that certifies the information included in it is true and correct, and if it is found to be fraudulent or forced it can have serious consequences on the outcome of your case.

In addition to the required Mandatory Disclosures required in every family law case, parties can engage in additional discovery to gain information not available to them in the initial disclosure documents. Your attorney can request your spouse provide up to five years of documents, or they can request your spouse answer certain questions that are sworn upon. Additionally, your attorney can subpoena records from banks or other institutions, and they can take depositions of witnesses such as family members, record-keepers, medical professionals, etc. All of this is heavily governed by the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, and it can be somewhat difficult, and in some cases impossible, for you to navigate without proper representation.

It is extremely important in your family case that discovery be handled appropriately, as the Florida Rules of Evidence govern what information can be provided to the Court as “evidence” and, if not effectuated properly, certain evidence will not be considered. Contact an attorney in our office if you have any questions relating to the discovery process in your case, and we will be more than happy to assist you.