What is a Subpoena?

Hossein Berenji, Apr 10, 2018

Family law disputes can be difficult to navigate. This is especially true if spouses or parents are not seeing eye-to-eye. Subpoenas can be used to help gather information, evidence, and testimony necessary to resolve a dispute. Ignoring a lawfully-issued subpoena can have serious civil and/or criminal consequences.

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a legal order requiring a person to do something. The requirement may be to physically show up in person or to produce documents relevant to a legal proceeding. Since a subpoena is a legal order, ignoring or refusing to cooperate carries substantial penalties. In fact, the term subpoena literally means “under penalty.”

Subpoenas can be essential to uncovering information that is relevant to a family law case. Whether you are going through a divorce, asking for spousal support, or fighting for custody of your child, the subpoena power can be crucial to your success.

Are There Different Types of Subpoenas?

Yes. In California, there are three primary types of subpoenas that will be useful in family law matters.

Subpoena to Compel a Person’s Presence

A subpoena can be issued to compel a person to show up in court or at a legal hearing to testify under oath as a witness. The testimony they present can be helpful in clearing up disputes and discrepancies in arguments.

Example: You are fighting for sole custody of your children on the grounds that the other parent has a drug and alcohol addiction. Your attorney can subpoena an addiction treatment professional and require them to show up and testify in court. Their testimony can be used to support your allegations that the other parent is not fit to care for your kids.

Subpoena to Compel the Presentation of Documents

Sometimes you may not necessarily want or need a person to testify under oath. However, you may be very interested in documents or information that they have their possession. Your attorney can issue a subpoena to compel them to present certain business documents. This type of subpoena does not require the party to personally show up in court. [SUBP-001]

Example: Imagine that you’re in the middle of a hotly-contested divorce. You have reason to believe that your spouse hasn’t fully disclosed his or her business assets, which directly affects how your marital property will be divided. Your attorney can issue a subpoena which compels your spouse to present any relevant documents. [SUBP-010]

Subpoena to Compel Presence & Documents

If you want a person to show up to testify, but also bring certain pieces of documentation with them, your attorney can issue a subpoena demanding both. [SUBP-002]

Example: You are getting divorced and requesting that your spouse pay child support. You do not believe that they are accurately reporting their income, which affects how much they will be required to pay. Your attorney can issue a subpoena to have the child’s other parent to testify in court about his or her employment while also providing proof of income with pay stubs.

What Happens If I Ignore a Subpoena?

Ignore a subpoena at your own peril. If you fail to comply with the demands of the court, you can be subject to substantial civil and criminal penalties. These can include significant civil fines and being charged with contempt of court. Contempt of court is punishable by time in jail and additional fines.

Experienced Los Angeles Family Law Attorney

Have you been served with a subpoena in a Los Angeles divorce law matter? Do you need to compel your spouse or another person to show up in court or present documents? Contact Berenji & Associates for immediate legal assistance. Our Los Angeles family law attorneys can help you understand your responsibilities and help you navigate complex legal issues. We offer a case evaluation, so do not hesitate to call us today.