In divorces involving minor children, one party may find themselves on the serving or receiving end of a subpoena in a child support case. No matter which side you are on in the dispute, it’s important to understand the legal demands of a subpoena. A subpoena is a powerful tool. It doesn’t suggest the recipient comply with the demand for information, records, or the recipient’s presence at a hearing, but instead compels it. If the party who receives the subpoena fails to comply, the results may be a charge of contempt of court which carries with it fines and possible jail time. In fact, the word subpoena means “under penalty.”

A subpoena is a written order requiring the recipient to provide evidence or appear for testimony in order to resolve a dispute such as a disputed child support order in family court. Or one party’s belief that the other party in a child support case is hiding evidence of income.

What Is the Most Common Reason to Receive a Subpoena in a Child Support Case?

There are three types of subpoenas used when it comes to matters of family law:

  • A subpoena demanding the presentation of documents or records
  • A subpoena demanding the recipient’s presence at a hearing or deposition
  • A subpoena demanding the recipient both appear and produce documents and records

Subpoenas are most often issued in order to demand access to records. When it comes to child support, a subpoena can force the recipient to provide access to financial records such as the following:

  • Employment records like W2 forms and pay stubs to prove income.
  • Bank statements
  • Brokerage account statements

This is useful when a parent seeks child support from a co-parent who may attempt to hide income or assets in order to reduce the amount of child support they are ordered to pay after a divorce.

In some cases, a divorcing spouse may receive a subpoena requesting them to appear for a deposition, evidentiary hearing, or trial, and may demand that they produce certain financial records to bring with them. A subpoena may also be served to the employer of a divorcing person in order to compel the employer to provide accurate information about the spouse’s earnings.

Creating and Serving Subpoenas for Child Support

Your Los Angeles child support lawyer will create a subpoena if necessary to compel an ex-spouse to provide evidentiary documents showing income, bonuses, commissions, and other records in order to get a complete picture of the spouse’s income to determine the amount of child support owed to the other spouse after divorce.

A subpoena in a California child support case requires an attorney licensed in the state or a stamp from the clerk of court in order to be valid. A subpoena cannot arrive in the mail but instead requires serving in person to verify that the correct person receives it.

What to Do if You’re Served a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a serious document requiring careful attention and diligent compliance. Even if you accidentally fail to provide a requested document it could cause legal problems for you. If you receive a subpoena in relation to your child support case, it’s important to contact an attorney to review the document, explain your rights and obligations under the terms of the subpoena, and advocate on your side in court.

In most cases, an attorney will strongly advise you to simply comply with the subpoena. Only under very specific circumstances can a recipient challenge a subpoena and only within 10 days of the date it was served. Your subpoena may be “quashed” under the circumstances:

  • If the subpoena didn’t meet the legal requirements in the manner it was served
  • If you live outside of the county where the disposition is set to be held
  • If the subpoena requests privileged information
  • If appearance at a deposition or gathering the requested information is an undue hardship such as providing records that no longer exist or if it includes records
  • requests that are too broad

Never “ignore” a subpoena, even if you believe you have a valid legal reason to challenge it. Instead, speak to an attorney about your rights and obligations before you act on a subpoena or challenge it.