Family law disputes may include matters related to divorce, custody, property division, paternity, and spousal support. Unfortunately, the parties often disagree about how the matter should be resolved. The result is litigation through the court. 

Subpoenas are valuable tools used to gather information about a case. They may also be used to obtain evidence and testimony. Ignoring a subpoena could result in serious consequences.

What is a Subpoena in Family Court?

A subpoena is a written order issued by the court to compel a party to provide testimony or turn over information or documents. Most courts have standard subpoena forms they use. If a subpoena does not conform to the court’s requirements, it may not be valid. 

Because subpoenas are a legal order from the court, ignoring a subpoena could result in contempt of court charges. Penalties for ignoring a subpoena could include monetary sanctions. The judge could also order incarceration in county jail for failing to comply with a valid subpoena. 

The power to subpoena witnesses and documents can be crucial in a disputed family law matter. For example, you may need to subpoena the records for your partner’s business to determine the value for property division purposes. In addition, you may need to subpoena medical records to help prove that a spouse is unfit to have custody because of a debilitating mental health condition. 

Most uncontested divorces do not require subpoenas. The parties agree on all terms of the divorce. Therefore, there are no disputes to resolve. Subpoenas are mainly used in contested family court matters where parties conceal information or evidence that may be difficult to obtain without a court order. 

Are There Different Types of Subpoenas Used in Family Court Cases?

Yes, there are three types of subpoenas that a Lawrenceville family law attorney may use during your case.

Subpoena For Documents 

A subpoena duces tecum compels a party to present documents for inspection and copying. This type of subpoena does not require the person to appear in court. However, it does require the party to make documents available to you. Many parties copy the documents and send them to your attorney’s office to avoid appearing at the time and date on the subpoena. 

For example, suppose you suspect that your spouse is hiding income by transferring wages, bonuses, and commissions to a secret account. You may send a subpoena duces tecum to your spouse’s employer and the Georgia Department of Revenue for wage statements and records. Obtaining the wage records can reveal how much your spouse truly earns for spousal support and property division purposes.

Subpoena For a Person

A subpoena may require a person to appear to testify in court or at a deposition. Both forms of testimony are under oath. Taking depositions can help gather evidence and clear up matters before the court. 

Because a subpoena requires the person to appear, subpoenas help obtain testimony from reluctant witnesses. They can also compel testimony from medical professionals, psychologists, childcare providers, teachers, and other individuals who may typically decline testifying without a court order.

Subpoena For a Person and Documents 

A subpoena may require a person to appear to testify and bring documents with them to the deposition or court. In the example above related to wage statements, you may subpoena the company’s payroll supervisor to testify and explain the discrepancies between your spouse’s wage statements and the financial disclosure they provided to the court. You may also request that they bring records and any relevant documentation pertaining to their testimony.

Some Information May Be Protected 

A person receiving a subpoena is generally required to comply. However, there could be exceptions to the general rule. The recipient may object to the subpoena.

The party may file a motion to quash or modify the subpoena. Some objections to subpoenas include, but are not limited to:

  • It imposes an undue expense or burden
  • It is ambiguous or vague
  • It seeks documents that are irrelevant to the matter or issues
  • It asks for confidential or privileged information or trade secrets
  • The court issuing the subpoena lacks jurisdiction over the party
  • The distance to travel for testimony is excessive
  • The party did not serve the subpoena properly on the responding party
  • There is insufficient time to respond to the subpoena

A judge hears the evidence and decides whether the person must comply with the subpoena. The judge could order the party to modify the subpoena or void (quash) the subpoena. On the other hand, the judge may order the party to comply with all requests in the subpoena.

Receiving a subpoena can be stressful. If you have questions, seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can review the subpoena and explain your rights and obligations under the law.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.