If you are a party to a family law dispute, you may find yourself on the giving or receiving end of a subpoena. In case you aren’t familiar with what a subpoena is, it’s essentially a tool that an attorney can use to compel the other party in a dispute to do something – like provide information, documents, or other forms of evidence that are pertinent to the dispute.
A subpoena isn’t merely a request for something – it’s a demand. Unless your attorney is successful in objecting to the subpoena, complying with it isn’t optional. Objecting to a subpoena requires a legally valid reason for doing so, but the bar for this can be high. Just as an example, a psychiatrist could refuse to comply with a subpoena because of doctor-patient confidentiality, although not even this is absolute if the information sought is highly pertinent to a dispute.
Now that you understand how potent a subpoena can be, let’s take a look at how it can play a role in any family law dispute.
Why Are Subpoenas Needed in Family Law Disputes?
Subpoenas might be issued whether you are involved in a divorce, child custody battle, spousal support dispute, or a related matter. There are many different types of subpoenas in California that compel parties to do various things. While none are specific to family law matters, several are commonly used in these types of disputes.
Civil Subpoena for Personal Appearance at Trial or Hearing
When a party wants to compel someone to provide testimony at an evidentiary hearing or trial, this type of subpoena might be issued. This subpoena can be useful to get information from someone who has knowledge about an issue that no one else but the other party might.
As an example, a party’s employer can be subpoenaed to provide information about the party’s earnings. This can help shed light on whether or not the party has taken an optional pay cut, deferred their salary, earned any bonuses or commissions, or other information about their income that can factor into a spousal support or child support order.
Civil Subpoena for Personal Appearance and Production of Records at Trial or Hearing
This is a subpoena that compels a witness to provide certain things at a trial or evidentiary hearing. In most situations, these things are documents and financial records, although other forms of evidence could be requested.
Building upon our example for the previous subpoena, the party requesting a subpoena can require the employer to produce documents where the other party requested arrangements regarding their compensation. This can include any email exchanges about the matter as well as any forms that were filled out to initiate the arrangement. This can demonstrate that any financial hardship the party may claim may either not be real or was intentionally devised by the party.
Deposition Subpoena for Production of Business Records
This subpoena can be used to request almost any kind of business record. In a divorce, it may encompass bank statements, credit card statements, brokerage account statements, medical records, law enforcement records, employment records – you name it, and it can probably be demanded with this subpoena. This is a particularly important subpoena because it’s the one that someone might issue if they suspect the other party is hiding assets.
Returning to our example again, let’s say that the party requesting the subpoena has noticed that the other party has a new car and has been posting pictures from Cancun on a social media profile. The requesting party is suspicious about where the money to afford these things is coming from because the other party is claiming they have a financial hardship. A Deposition Subpoena for Production of Business Records could compel the other party to disclose all sorts of records that could indicate how the purchases were made and if money is being hidden somewhere.
Subpoenas aren’t to be trifled with whether you’re issuing one or have received one. Failing to respond to a subpoena can be treated as contempt and punishable by steep fines and even a stint in jail. If you’ve been subpoenaed during a family law dispute, always consult with a legal representative for guidance on how to handle it.
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, our experienced attorneys can offer such guidance as we help you navigate the legal complexities of any family law matter. For more information about our services and how we can help you, schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.