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Why Do I Have to Comply with Discovery, I Wasn’t even married to the Mother of My Child?

The legislature of the State of Florida sets forth rules for discovery, and those rules are loosely called 12.285. 12.285 sets forth all the parameters for discovery in Family Law Cases. Unfortunately, the law does not differentiate the discovery required in a divorce case from that required in a paternity case. It also does not differentiate between pre-judgment cases and post-judgment cases, leaving all of us in this business over-doing it when it comes to non-marital children cases, and also causing us to do far too much work when it comes to post-judgment work. (Imagine you finish your case after a year of discovery, you get laid off six months later, and you have to produce the documents all over again to even slightly reduce child support. That is the reality of this poorly written law). In short, it is voluminous and frustrating to even get out the 12.285, you might find yourself disclosing bank statements to your ex, when she was the joint owner of the account! Nonetheless, making immediate filing of your disclosure an early priority can save you a lot of money.

With regard to discovery, generally, the law allows a wide berth. Discovery may be a total fishing expedition, it may be repetitive, and it may be voluminous, as long as it is “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” to quote the vague language of the evidence code. Further, circuit court judges are rarely overturned by the appellate courts when discovery issues are appealed in civil cases, which gives lawyers very little insight as to how any judge may resolve discovery disputes. Therefore, we have three choices facing any discovery request. Ignore it, Answer it, or Object.

The second option rarely causes any Motion to be filed relative to same. This is the cheapest and quickest option for you. Meaning, that if your ignore or object to discovery, your opposition is likely to file one of the following actions: an Ex Parte Motion to Compel (where you don’t even get a hearing to give your reasons for noncompliance); a Motion to Compel; a Motion for Better Responses; or a Request for Hearing on Discovery Objections. All of these Motions will almost always make a request for attorney’s fees to be paid by you to the other side, for violations of discovery. While the law is vague on what discovery is okay, the law is CLEAR on attorneys’ fees for discovery violations. If the judge does NOT feel that you were justified in your refusal to give complete answers, not only are you paying your lawyer for the extra work, you will also pay the opposing counsel. Once discovery violations are dealt with in Court, they are also likely to delay the ultimate resolution of the case. If you haven’t realized it by now, the longer you have a relationship with your lawyer, the more it will cost you, in time, money and stress. Getting on top of discovery quickly and completely is the best course of action. For more information or questions about Discovery and its rules or child support issues please contact Chantale Suttle, child support attorney in Miami via www.Dadvocacy.com or (305) 363-6171