Information is vital to any court action. As I mentioned last week,
discovery is the way your lawyer will gather information that you may need for your
case. We have several possible actions that we may use to get at the needed
information: we can present an amicable release of information from certain
sources (banks, employers, et cetera) or we can force the information
out into the open with a formal legal demand that information must be
presented to us within a specific period.
Subpoenas are an official order from the court that compels a witness to
appear before the court on a particular date and time to present information
they may have. Subpoenas are often delivered (served) by a sheriff, U.S.
marshal or process server well in advance of the date of appearance. The
only way to get out of a subpoena is by presenting a valid legal excuse
– such as a catastrophic illness or other encumbrance. In many cases
where a valid excuse is present, a judge will only delay the subpoena
for a later date.
Failure to comply with a subpoena is a serious problem, punishable by law
and often results in a charge of contempt of court and fines. In contentious
cases, subpoenas are used when one party is non-cooperative (e.g., failure
to sign a release). The costs associated with preparing and serving subpoenas
can be reasonable unless the third party or entity charges significant
fees for the production of information requested. For instance, a bank
can charge a fee for every page produced plus a flat fee to cover research.
Subpoenas may be issued during the initial stages of a contentious dissolution
or legal separation because a significant amount of time may be required
for a third party or entity to produce the information or witness requested.