Restrictions on Post-Judgment Family Law Discovery (Boblitt)

Restrictions on Post-Judgment Family Law Discovery (Boblitt)

To see Assembly Bill No. 2586 and the new post-judgment discovery statute, FC 218, please click here.

The Boblitt case was originally published in February 2014, and we now already have a correction. This is one of the fastest corrections of a previously unjust law that I have ever seen. This is your legislature at work – along with the help of concerned legal organizations throughout California. This case had to do with post-judgment modifications and post-trial disputes. Unlike almost every other area of law, family law attorneys represent clients in disputes that arise after a “final” ruling has been issued. Despite their name, these final decisions are hardly ever final.

Post-judgment modification issues usually involve child custody and child support, but they can be connected to delayed asset or debt divisions, hidden asset problems and more.

What about post-judgment discovery?

Every lawyer knows that discovery ends 30 days before the trial. This is true for most areas of the law, but what happens when family law issues come up AFTER the trial is over? The Boblitt case not only discussed the long history of the post-judgment discovery problem, but “solved” the issue in a way that was eventually changed with the passing of the new statute, FC 218. The pitfalls experienced by Ms. Boblitt eventually provoked a change in the law. The problem is framed in this section of the case:

  • “Linda Boblitt (wife) contends that the trial court violated her right to due process because, less than a month before the post-judgment evidentiary hearing, the court added an issue to those that were scheduled to be heard, thereby effectively precluding her from conducting discovery on the new issue because ‘discovery is cut-off 30 days before trial by statute.’”

In the same paragraph, the 3d District rejects Ms. Boblitt’s claims by stating:

  • “We reject wife’s due process claim because in a marital dissolution proceeding like this, once discovery closes before the initial date set, no provision of law operates to automatically reopen it upon or in connection with the filing for a post-judgment motion.

Outrageous! (But Legally Correct Under the Law)

The court added a financial issue sua sponte 15 days before the hearing on the post-judgment motion, over the objection of the party. The party was powerless to conduct discovery on that issue because the motion was post-trial – and therefore, after the discovery window was cut off.

This led to an impossible conundrum. The wife would have had to file a motion to re-open discovery, but she did not know about the issue until the court added it. Her attorney objected, but it was shot down. She eventually appealed, but lost. Having not been able to file a timely motion, the wife was faced with the prospect of going to trial on an issue that she could not be ready to litigate.

Groups Who Were Ready to Address the Legislature

Proposals from at least one respected state-wide family law organization had been put in place in an attempt to add statutory language overturning the Boblitt Catch-22. Luckily, family lawyers weren’t asked to face this uphill battle for long. This unjust law was swiftly corrected.

Categories: Family Law

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