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What if an opposing party fails to follow discovery rules?

Rules are in place for a reason. When people fail to follow the rules, such as in the legal system, there may be penalties that can be imposed against the individual who broke the rule.

For instance, last week this blog discussed how important it is for Florida residents to discover all assets at stake in a high asset divorce. There are several rules in place that allow for full disclosure of both parties' assets and debts, in order for these items to be equitably divided in the divorce.

Unfortunately, the other party does not always follow these discovery rules. The party might refuse to provide certain documents, or refuse to answer certain questions or engage in other obstructive behavior designed to hide the truth.

The good news is that there are consequences that may apply when opposing parties fail to follow the discovery rules. For example, if an opposing party refuses to disclose documents that must be provided, the individual who sought the documents may file a motion with the court to compel the other party to provide the documents. The court then has the power to order that party to produce the documents, and the court can impose additional sanctions as well, including awarding the person their attorney's fees for having to file the motion in the first place.

Further sanctions can result for parties who fail to follow valid court orders. The person can be held in contempt of court, for example, which can involve a host of sanctions imposed against the party.

Ultimately, the discovery rules are in place to ensure that all information relevant to the case is properly disclosed by both sides. If a party fails to abide by these or other rules, the individuals affected should understand their rights and their ability to enforce the rules.

Source: Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, "Florida Rules of Civil Procedure," accessed on April 30, 2016

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