Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Discovery in a Florida divorce refers to a process in which each party is entitled to request documents and other evidence to explore the issues in the case. This is the time when each party investigates issues raised in the petitions. One way to investigate is to send subpoenas for information from third parties such as banks, employers and the like. But what limits are imposed on the information that can be obtained by third parties?

In the case Hall v. Hall, 5D18-1608 (Fla. 5th DCA 2019), the husband sought records from a medical practice fractionally owned by the wife. The trial court granted the medical practice’s motion for protective order, effectively denying the husband information concerning the wife’s ownership interest in the medical practice. The husband filed a petition for certiorari with the appellate court, alleging the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law by denying him the right to ascertain information that would be relevant to the parties’ divorce.

The appellate court agreed with the husband, holding, “When an order denying a discovery request "effectively eviscerates a party's claim, defense, or counterclaim, relief by writ of certiorari is appropriate." Giacalone v. Helen Ellis Mem'l Hosp. Found., Inc., 8 So. 3d 1232, 1234-35 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009). For purposes of resolving this discovery dispute, we find that none of the circumstances exist that would irrefutably define the value of Wife's interest in BPA by an accountant's determination of the book value of the practice. Wife will continue to be one of the owner/members of BPA even after the marriage is dissolved. If her ownership interest in BPA is a marital asset, its value must be determined and considered by the trial court in its equitable distribution analysis. Thus, information and documents regarding the value of BPA—which in turn may shed light on the value of Wife's ownership interest—is discoverable as those documents may themselves be admissible or lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.280(b). One spouse is entitled to discovery concerning the value of the non-requesting spouse's ownership interest in a company or business. [. . .] We agree that Husband is entitled to reasonable discovery from BPA so that he may seek to determine and offer evidence at trial of the value of Wife's ongoing ownership interest in BPA.”

It is important to note that the appellate court did not allow the husband to seek all records held by BPA, only those that were reasonably required to shed light on the value of the wife’s ownership interest in the medical practice. If you need assistance obtaining information about the opposing party’s financial circumstances in your Florida divorce, contact a Miami divorce lawyer for a consultation. A meeting may help you determine your next best steps.