In divorce, both parties have the right to obtain each other’s financial records. The purpose of this is to determine how to divide marital assets and calculate spousal and child support where applicable. While each side is obligated to fully disclose all relevant financial information, sometimes, one party does not want to provide certain records. Typically, the other party will then seek to subpoena the documents. If you are the one refusing to comply, how can you challenge the subpoena?
What Is a Subpoena?
A subpoena is a legal demand for relevant documents from your spouse or a non-party that holds such information. If a party does not comply with a subpoena, it can be enforced by going to court.
What Are the Options for Challenging a Subpoena for Financial Records?
One method of contesting the subpoena is to file a motion to quash the subpoena. This means asking the court to find the subpoena null and void for some reason. Valid grounds for quashing a subpoena include that it is asking for records that are immaterial or irrelevant, or the request for documents is made in bad faith or to harass the party.
The other way to challenge the subpoena is to file a motion for a protective order to restrict or negate the other side’s access to the records. Typically, this is used when the documents contain non-party personal or confidential information that you want or need to protect.
How Does the Court Decide Whether to Allow Disclosure of Financial Records?
New York has liberal discovery standards. It permits the disclosure of information that is relevant or may lead to relevant information for the divorce action. As a result, it can be difficult to get a subpoena quashed. While courts will not allow parties to conduct a fishing expedition, they will not quash a subpoena unless you can show that the documents requested are not relevant and would not lead to relevant information.
When it comes to protective orders, the court may grant one in appropriate cases. However, the parties must indicate what, if any, limits should be imposed on the production of the documents to minimize or eliminate the disclosure of personal or confidential information. If the parties cannot agree on the restrictions, the court will decide. This topic will be discussed in more detail in our next blog post.
Disputes over finances are common in divorce. While it may seem unfair or onerous to provide certain records, you cannot withhold relevant information unless you have legitimate grounds. In that situation, having an experienced divorce lawyer to effectively handle a challenge to discovery is crucial.
If you are considering divorce or think your spouse is, contact us for a consultation to learn how we can assist you in obtaining a positive outcome in your divorce.