Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Family Law Procedure
Discovery is often dreaded by parties involved in a Florida family law case, but it is a necessary part of the procedure that will lead to a trial. Discovery is the process in which each party exchanges certain documents and information to prove his/her side of the case. For example, bank statements, pay stubs and other financial documents may be exchanged as part of discovery to prove a party's ability to pay child support.
But before discovery can be required to be produced, a party asking for the discovery has to prove it is relevant to the issues in the case. Most requested discovery is relevant, but in the case Elkins v. Elkins, 4D18-625 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) we see a situation in which the requested discovery was not yet relevant. In this case, the former wife filed a motion for enforcement of the parties' marital settlement agreement, alleging the former husband had not removed her from the mortgages on the properties he kept as part of the agreement. The agreement said the parties would use "best efforts" to remove the wife from the mortgages on the properties.
The former wife sent extensive discovery requests to the husband regarding his financial status. The former husband filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing, stating the phrase "best efforts" was ambiguous and the court should determine what this meant in the parties' agreement. He also filed a motion objecting to production of the discovery requested by the former wife. The court granted the former husband's motion for the evidentiary hearing, agreeing the phrase was ambiguous, but at the same time ordered the former husband to produce the discovery requested by the former wife.
The former husband appealed the court's decision to compel him to produce the discovery, arguing until the court determined the meaning of the ambiguous phrase, his financial disclosure was not relevant to the issues in the case. The wife argued the discovery was necessary to show what assets were available to him for refinancing. The appellate court agreed with the former husband that the trial court first needed to determine the meaning of "best efforts" before requiring the former husband to produce all of his financial disclosure. Conceivably, the trial court's decision on that phrase could narrow the discovery that would be relevant and necessary for the former husband to produce.
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