Is Discovery Mandatory?
Discovery-- unless you've been involved in a lawsuit before, you are probably unfamiliar with what this word means and how it affects your case. Put simply, discovery is the organized process used to uncover information in a legal matter. This may include the exchange of documents, requests for disclosures from either party, and certain types of examination. In Florida family law cases, discovery is primarily governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, with additional requirements imposed by Rule 12.285 of the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.
Rule 12.285 Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure governs what is known "Mandatory Disclosure". This rule applies to adoption, simplified dissolution, enforcement, contempt, injunctions for protection against domestic, repeat, dating, or sexual violence, or stalking, and uncontested dissolutions. This discovery process allows the parties, their counsel and the court to determine what assets and liabilities exist, what incomes are available, to ensure that support and division of these items occurs in way that is fair and equitable. Without discovery, parties would move through family court without a complete picture of exactly what is at stake. In order to ensure a full and fair disclosure, discovery is required.
If a party refuses to engage in discovery or gives untimely responses, there are consequences. The court may impose sanctions against a party, which may include the payment of the other side's attorney's fees, or the striking of pleadings. The importance of making a good faith, honest effort in discovery cannot be overstated. The process may feel overwhelming, even invasive, but with the guidance of an experienced family law attorney, you should have a clear understanding of what to expect and how to comply. Call (904) 608-3694 if you have questions about discovery in your case.