For many people, divorce is one of the few, if not the only time they’ll find themselves in a courtroom or involved in a legal dispute. There are a number of processes and procedures that can seem obtuse, complex, or even concerning. When you get a demand letter or a legal summons, it’s easy to feel lost. One of the first things you might receive in a divorce proceeding is a “litigation hold” letter. Continue reading to learn about litigation holds and how they factor into a divorce. If you are considering divorce or dealing with other New Jersey family law matters, call a seasoned Englewood divorce attorney for advice and representation.
The Litigation Hold: Don’t Destroy Evidence
A litigation hold is a formal request sent in anticipation of a potential lawsuit demanding that the recipient not destroy any evidence pertinent to the matter. In the normal course of your life, or the normal course of business, you might destroy documents all the time. You may throw away bills or bank statements, delete texts or emails, etc. When you are embroiled in a lawsuit, those documents could contain relevant evidence. To ensure that no important evidence is destroyed, you might receive (or your attorney may choose to send) a litigation hold demand.
The litigation hold should specify the scope of the documents that should be preserved. It may include both physical and electronic documents. In a divorce, the litigation hold may apply to all documents pertaining to the issues pertinent to the divorce–documents relating to your finances, your assets (both separate and marital), your children (communications with their school, with their doctors, etc.), your debts, and even communications with your spouse and other relevant parties. You may need to preserve emails, paper documents, letters, videos, pictures, calendars, hard drives, thumb drives, contracts, and any other type of physical or electronic evidence that may be of relevance.
How Does a Litigation Hold Affect Your Divorce?
If you are a party to litigation, or an anticipated party, and you receive a litigation hold letter, you are obligated to preserve evidence relevant to the litigation. You can and should discuss with your attorney the scope of the hold and the types of documents you need to start preserving.
The litigation hold is a serious obligation and should not be disregarded or taken lightly. Failing to preserve relevant evidence or deliberately destroying evidence relevant to the case can result in you being sanctioned by the court. Sanctions can include the court making adverse assumptions about what the evidence might have shown. For example, if you destroy evidence regarding when assets were acquired and the evidence cannot be obtained elsewhere, the court might rule those assets are not separate. The court might go so far as to resolve issues against you in the matter. If you deliberately disobey a court order to preserve evidence, you can be held in contempt.
The litigation hold is a powerful tool for your side of the case. If you are concerned about your spouse hiding assets, for example, or misrepresenting facts in court, the litigation hold will prevent them from destroying evidence relating to those matters. Talk to your attorney about the scope of the litigation hold request they will send, and what your obligations will be in advance of and during the pendency of your divorce.
Trusted Advice and Representation for New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Matters
If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey or dealing with property division, child support, child custody, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.