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Subpoena in a Divorce: How is it Used?

Subpoenas can be a useful legal tool in a divorce matter, although they are typically reserved for situations in which one or both parties are being uncooperative or when there is important information that neither party possesses. Continue reading for a discussion of how subpoenas are used in a New Jersey divorce, and call a knowledgeable Englewood divorce attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a legal document issued under the court’s authority to require a person to act in a specific way with regard to a pending legal matter. A subpoena can be used to force a person to sit for a deposition or testify in court, to provide documents and other evidence to the requesting party, or to require the person to show up in court with documents. Subpoenas can be issued to individuals or entities such as a corporation. A person who refuses a valid subpoena can be punished under the law.

Out-of-State Subpoenas

Subpoenas are only as powerful as the court that grants them. A subpoena issued by a New Jersey court can only compel individuals and entities within the State of New Jersey. If a witness or other person from whom documents are sought is located out of the state, then the party seeking the documents or testimony will need to get a local court to help with the request.

Generally, the party will need to get a court within that state to issue its own subpoena from that jurisdiction compelling the person or entity to show up or produce documents in the out-of-state matter. Each state has its own rules and practices for compelling in-state residents to testify in out-of-state matters.

How Are Subpoenas Used in Divorces?

Subpoenas are typically used when some party or person has information relevant to the case but is unwilling to provide the information voluntarily (or is unable to do so without a court order). Subpoenas can be used to compel the production of a variety of documents that may apply to issues including alimony, child support, property division, and other matters. Subpoenas can be used to compel production of, for example:

  • Financial documents pertaining to a party’s accounts
  • Phone and text message records proving a party’s communications
  • Email and social media records
  • Proof of income
  • School records
  • Medical records

Subpoenas are often used when it appears that one party to the divorce has failed to fully disclose all of the required information. If one party fails to fully disclose their financials, for example, or is suspected to be hiding certain assets, the attorney for the other party can subpoena banks and other third parties for additional documents and information.

Subpoenas can also be used to compel testimony from unwilling parties. Parties can be required to sit for a deposition, testify in court, or show up in court with documents (often to compel testimony about those documents or to authenticate the documents). Any number of parties may be subpoenaed for testimony in a divorce proceeding, depending on the facts and issues relevant to the matter. A subpoena may seek to compel testimony from, for example:

  • Friends or family members with firsthand knowledge of each party’s parenting or instances of abuse
  • Schoolteachers and counselors with information about the children’s health and performance
  • Financial advisors and others with knowledge about one or both party’s finances

Any party with information relevant to the divorce can be subpoenaed to provide a deposition or testimony. If the information they possess is less relevant or can more easily be found through means other than compelling testimony, however, the other party may object and the court may refuse to issue the subpoena.

Trusted Legal Help For Your New Jersey Divorce

If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with discovery, alimony, child support, child custody, property division, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.