In family law cases in Florida the parties are subject to “Mandatory Disclosure” of records and documents. Mandatory disclosure is sufficient for some cases. For some cases the mandatory disclosure does not go back far enough in time, or leaves out documents that are needed. Then, other discovery techniques are needed. One such technique is a Request for Production of Documents.
In many cases I get a Request for Production of Documents that is clearly boilerplate. By that I mean that opposing counsel has a form production request on their computer that lists every possible document that ever became relevant in every case this practitioner has ever had. I’ve had production requests with over 60 paragraphs. The request sometimes goes back five or more years for all records listed. This is a kind of game-playing that is a waste of resources.
Why do some lawyers do this? Three reasons, really. One, the lawyer does not want to be accused of negligence in leaving out or missing something. Two, the lawyer is lazy and does not want to trim the request to meet the circumstances of this particular case. Three, the lawyer does not want to bill his own client for the time to pare down his form and would rather the opposing counsel and party have those billable wasteful hours.
I always take a look at my form request for production. Admittedly, sometimes I just go with the boilerplate. That is usually in the more involved cases. Over the years I have added or trimmed my form request for production specifically responding to my experiences in complex cases so it is reasonable in a complex case. Usually though, I trim the request. There is no good explanation for sending an extra twenty paragraphs requesting trust or business records in a case with no trusts or businesses.
I think it is a matter of professionalism to use the Request for Production when it’s needed and limited to what’s needed. It’s abusive to cause unnecessary work and time from the opposing side in a family law case. I have in my career practiced civil litigation. I got a taste of it again recently. It is far more prevalent in civil litigation to use discovery as a strategy to strong-arm the opponent, to make the litigation more expensive, to cause errors or omissions to be exploited on discovery motion practice. It’s really distasteful. I appreciate that family law has far less of such practices.
Perhaps the family law lawyers have recognized that overly litigating cases harms children, directly and indirectly. That is a step toward a more just society. It is also a step toward a more spiritually rewarding practice of law.
For more about Joy A. Bartmon, go to http://www.bartmonfamilylaw.com/
For the Rules of Family Law Procedure go to https://www.floridabar.org/TFB/TFBResources.nsf/Attachments/416879C4A88CBF0485256B29004BFAF8/$FILE/Family.pdf?OpenElement
For the rule on mandatory disclosure in family law cases in Florida go to http://phonl.com/fl_law/rules/famlawrules/famrul12285.htm