In an ideal divorce situation, both parties would work together to amicably go over family records, assets, and expenses and figure out the best way to move forward with a split. In reality, divorce can quickly fuel emotions of jealousy, suspicion, secrecy, and frustration. This leads couples to become intentionally difficult and deceptive with each other. When this happens, it can be hard for either party to get access to all of the documents and testimony needed to finalize the details of a divorce.
Where parties cannot work together, the divorce process becomes more like a typical trial, with each party given the opportunity to seek documents and testimony from the other as well as from third parties. Because few individuals will willingly hand over documents or volunteer their time in a legal proceeding, subpoenas are a powerful vehicle for allowing litigants to get the information they need and deserve.
Subpoenas as Part of the Litigation Process in University Place
During the course of a divorce, the divorcing couple will go through a process known as discovery. Discovery allows each party to obtain information from the other, both in writing, or in deposition testimony. This can be done by sending the other person written questions that they have to answer or requests for documents they need to produce, or by having them answer questions in a deposition interview.
The goal of discovery is to uncover the facts that are necessary to support your position in the case. For example, if it is your position that your spouse has a great deal of personal wealth that he or she should have to share in a divorce, you’ll need to uncover financial documents that support this claim and show the wealth that he or she has.
Sometimes after initially seeking documents from your former spouse, you may still find that you’re having difficulty proving your claims. Perhaps your former spouse didn’t have the documents you needed or couldn’t recollect the information that you were seeking. When this happens, you can turn to other third parties or other entities and attempt to collect the documents from them.
Most third-parties won’t be interested in helping you with your litigation. This is where subpoenas become helpful. Subpoenas are a legal order from the court that requires a third party to do a certain thing, provide certain documents, or show up at a certain time. If the third party does not respond to the subpoena, he or she could be punished by a court for this failure.
Requiring Someone to Show Up
The first way that subpoenas are used in a case is by requiring a third party to show up and be interviewed by the party who sends out the subpoena. This is known as a subpoena that requires an individual to appear and testify under oath. It typically sets forth a place, date, and time where the third party must appear.
On the day set forth in the subpoena, the third party will have to arrive and answer questions from both parties’ attorneys. These questions may help to shed light on certain facts that are unclear or provide entirely new facts that were previously unavailable to either party.
For example, say that an issue in a divorce is child custody and one parent is alleging that the other parent has an alcohol problem. The parent with the alleged problem argues that he has been going to AA for months and is entirely sober. The other parent may subpoena the leader of his AA group to testify and ask the leader to confirm whether all of the testimony that has previously been given is true.
Requiring Production of Documents
In other situations, one party to a divorce may want access to certain documents to confirm the truth about certain statements or find out what is really going on with a party’s financial circumstances. They may not actually need the testimony of any specific person, just access to certain documents that they can’t get on their own.
In this situation, a subpoena can be used to request that a party hand over certain documents. For example, if you want to confirm your partner’s financial status, you might attempt to subpoena his or her tax returns or statements from a financial adviser. If mental health is in question, it may be necessary to subpoena medical records from a medical provider.
Sometimes the most efficient answer may be for the subpoena to seek both the testimony of the individual and their records. This is possible as well. This type of subpoena requires an individual to show up to testify and to bring certain records with them to the meeting so that they can be reviewed by the opposing party.
Opposing a Subpoena
While third parties must always respond to a subpoena, this does not necessarily mean that they must comply with it. Rather, if an individual or an entity feels that a subpoena violates their rights, seeks irrelevant information, or is unduly burdensome, they can attempt to negotiate a narrowing of the subpoena with the party that sent it or file a motion for a protective order to keep them from having to comply with the subpoena.
Washington Attorneys Helping You Take Advantage of All Possible Discovery Mechanisms
If you are involved in a contentious divorce where you have been unable to get access to the documents and information that you need to prove your case, subpoenas can be a valuable mechanism for strengthening your claims and presenting your best possible case at trial. Indeed, a properly crafted subpoena can go a long way toward positioning you for success at trial.
At Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., our family law attorneys can help you to craft a comprehensive discovery strategy that includes requests for documents, depositions, and third-party subpoenas where necessary. For more information, contact us online or at 253-272-2997.