Our divorce team often hears the question: “If the other party is not going to play ball and turn over the documents they need to turn over, what can we do? I mean, is there anything we can do? Are the courts actually going to help out? How do we stop this? How do we get the other party to comply so that we can get through this process and get things done?”
Perhaps the most common tools that we use in Florida are Rule 1.350 and Rule 1.351. Basically, we’re saying, “Hey, we want to get documents from the other party, but we don’t necessarily want to go to a deposition.”
We want the other party to turn them over to us, usually within 30 days.
Using Rule 1.350
Rule 1.350 is probably the most cited rule that we use. This is a rule that we use when we do our formal request for production that spells out what the other party is supposed to do — and most importantly, it tells us where we can go if we need to force the other party to turn over the documents.
So, what does that look like? Quite simply, it’s formal pleading documents that say, “Court, we’re letting you know that I represent Sally in this case. Court, I’m letting you know that Sally is requesting Joe to turn over certain documents.”
I can tell you there’s going to be a lot of documents that we’re requesting. Because usually when you have a divorce, you have not only assets and debts but also you may have alimony or child support as issues. And the long and short of it is we need a lot of financial documents to figure out things like income, asset valuation, debt valuation, and business valuation.
We also use interrogatories — interrogatories are like questions where we make the other side make statements under oath that they are then bound to. Here again we’re representing Sally and we’re sending Joe certain standard interrogatories. They’re things like background information and education.
So, “What if the other person is not compliant?” Rule 1.380 allows us to file a motion. When a person’s not doing what we asked them to do, we have to tattletale in effect to the judge and get him or her to make an order. Because once you’re not following a judge’s order, then we get to go back to a judge and say, “Judge, they’re not doing what you said that they needed to do. So now I want you to hold them in contempt of court or do all those powerful things that you can do as a judge.”
Resolving Conflicts In Good Faith
In summary, 1.380 says we can file a motion asking the judge to compel an answer as long as we first certify in good faith that we tried to resolve the conflict. What that means is if you have a 1.351 request for production of documents and the other side doesn’t answer, we’re going to send a good faith letter at day 31 that says, “Hey, you didn’t answer and I’m going to give you another 5 or 10 days to answer.”
if you know your spouse is going to be somebody that’s not going to do it, then when they don’t you have now done everything you needed to do in good faith.
Using The Motion To Compel
If they don’t turn it over, we file a Motion To Compel. In every divorce case in Florida, there are certain documents that each party is required to turn over — three months of bank statements and three months of credit card statements, for example. All these things are required.
In the Motion To Compel we’re saying, “Listen, there was a timeframe for when the other party was supposed to turn over mandatory documents and they didn’t.”
Well, what if they request more time?
That happens. Let’s say that your attorney sends a good faith letter and the other attorney says, “Hey, give me 15 days this happened, that happened, the other thing.”
The reality is we need to be reasonable as long as they’re reasonable requests like 10 or 15 days. But clearly, I’ve seen some unbelievable circumstances like somebody being in the hospital. It’s not unreasonable to wait in that situation. So, it’s important that we’re reasonable but not unnecessarily so.