Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Discovery in a Florida family law case involves the exchange of documents and other evidence which each party uses to build his/her respective case. Generally each party is required to timely comply with discovery requests unless there is a valid objection raised. Failure to follow orders compelling discovery can result in a party’s defenses and claims being stricken, which means the party cannot request certain relief at trial.

In the case Lockett v. Lockett, 235 So.3d 1003 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018), at issue was the trial court’s decision to enter a default against the husband on his alimony claim due to his alleged failure to comply with discovery orders. During the course of litigation, the former wife filed multiple motions to compel discovery and for contempt related to the husband’s failure to produce discovery. At trial, the court heard argument on the wife’s request for a default against the husband. A default was entered against the husband after the court found him in contempt.

The husband was therefore not allowed to present evidence as to his alimony claim or make any arguments for the same. A final judgment was subsequently entered which ordered that no alimony be paid to either party. On appeal, the husband argued it was error for the trial court to enter a default against him where there was no finding that he was willfully or deliberately non-compliant with discovery orders.

The appellate court agreed with the husband, holding “In the instant case, the trial court’s order fails to include an express finding that the Husband acted deliberately and willfully in failing to comply with the court’s discovery orders. That omission is especially problematic here where the Husband did file some discovery but the Wife contended that his responses were insufficient or meaningless.” The case was therefore remanded for the trial court to hold a hearing to determine whether there was willful disregard of the trial court’s orders.

This case illustrates why it is important to follow discovery orders and timelines. The parties no doubt spent extra money on litigation over discovery (including an appeal) which may have been avoidable. If you need help obtaining discovery or responding to it, contact a Miami divorce lawyer for a consultation.