Discovery: How You Prove What You Already Know

We have partnered with Autumn Beck Blackledge, PLLC to bring relevant and important information to Pensacola Mom Collective readers through this series of sponsored posts.

Untying the Knot. An Expert Series on Divorce in PensacolaPreviously, we talked about Temporary Relief and the types of things that can be handled and serve as a band-aid while your case is progressing. You may wonder, “What are we waiting for? Why can’t we just make the final decisions about the divorce early in the process?” 

The short answer is that you are now in the phase of discovery which can be tedious and long.

Discovery is the fact-finding, evidence-gathering phase of your case. 

During this time, you will be exchanging documents, financial statements, and calendars for timesharing, taking depositions, and other types of information gathering. In family law, hard evidence can sometimes be hard to come by. However, your lawyer will need to know the entire financial picture and the overall history of the parenting responsibilities and arrangements in order to advise you as to what you can reasonably request and what you may fall flat on your face asking for. 

Even though family law cases are not like criminal cases where you have to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt, you still will need to convince a judge that your perspective and goal are the ones that the Court should adopt should you not otherwise agree with your spouse.

Take alimony, for example. 

While you may have a long-term marriage and may need permanent alimony from your spouse, if your financial records do not show that you have a need or that your spouse has extra money to pay you, then you may not get any from the Court. 

Documents like bank records, tax returns, business profit and loss statements, and credit card expenditures are necessary to help your lawyer formulate the strategy for obtaining financial help for you from your spouse. Many of these documents will be provided and likely will lead to more questions. You may need additional account statements when your lawyer’s office staff notices a new bank account number on transfers made, or you may want to ask questions in depositions about where certain cash deposits come from. 

Together, the paralegals and attorney, with you as an active participant, will help clear up any questions about what assets and debts exist and what proof there is of good or bad parenting, among other issues.

Subpoenas may also be necessary to send to third parties for documents that may impact your case that may be in their control and possession. Depositions may need to be taken to see if there are witnesses that can either substantiate your side of the story or explain certain events or documents. There also may be a need for experts.

Discovery is a time that is very busy for your lawyer but may seem quiet to you. 

The best way to move your case along quickly is the timely response to all discovery requests made to you by your lawyer. It can be tedious, and you may question why certain items are relevant to your case, but the discovery requested by your lawyer or the other lawyer is often fair game in your case. With that in mind, remember that anything you write, post, or say during your divorce (and before) can be used against you. 

Social media is a huge source of information nowadays in contested divorce cases. 

The photos you post, the comments you make, and the tweets you re-tweet can give the other side information about your motives, whereabouts, and even expenditures.  

One thing that is noteworthy when it comes to discovery is that there are certain things that the other lawyer cannot request without meeting certain specific criteria after a hearing on the issue. These “Discovery Hearings” are typically conducted when a party refuses to provide discovery but can also be held when there is an objection to a discovery request for something that may be privileged or protected, such as the psychotherapist/patient privilege or other statutory privileges that exist in Florida.  

Hint:  Do not let the discovery phase of your family law case be the time that your OWN lawyer finds out about bad facts or events that could hurt you in your case. If you have anything at all that may impact your case, the time to tell your lawyer is in your consultation or first meeting. If you have a “bad fact,” your lawyer can only protect you if he or she knows about it!  

Ultimately, discovery is a tool that gets you the evidence you need to prove what you already likely know, and sometimes, it is the tool that digs up a hidden account, a secret rendezvous, or comes up with nothing new. 

No matter what the result, this is how you get the proof you need to finish your case!

Autumn Beck Blackledge headshotAutumn Beck Blackledge has been practicing law for over 20 years and started her own firm in 2014, practicing exclusively in Marital and Family law. She is a Pensacola native and graduate of Tate High School and Florida State University, and FSU College of Law.


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