Discovery in Post-Judgment Requests for Order

Often, even after parties have obtained a judgment dissolving their marriage, the issues between the former spouses continue into the future. Family law cases are unique in this regard. This continued tension and disagreement between former spouses may lead one of them to seek court assistance in resolving an issue even after the parties are officially divorced. This type of action is called “post-judgment.”

In a post-judgment action, the party seeking relief might require some discovery. Generally, in civil actions, discovery after a final judgment is not permissible. In family law cases in California, however, parties are allowed to conduct discovery for post-judgment matters upon filing a request for order or other motion. This means that the minute a party files a post-judgment request for order, they may commence the necessary discovery (within the limits delineated by the Family Code).

Specifically, Family Code § 218[i] states: “With respect to the ability to conduct formal discovery in family law proceedings, when a request for order or other motion is filed and served after entry of judgment, discovery shall automatically reopen as to the issues raised in the postjudgment pleadings currently before the court. The date initially set for trial of the action specified in subdivision (a) of Section 2024.020 of the Code of Civil Procedure shall mean the date the postjudgment proceeding is set for hearing on the motion or any continuance thereof, or evidentiary trial, whichever is later.”

This means that a party who has filed a request for order or other motion after a judgment of dissolution is entered may conduct discovery as to the issues raised in their request for order. Unlike a civil action, the litigant need not move to seek leave to reopen discovery. However, the party still must complete their discovery proceedings by the 30th day before the date set for the hearing of the request for order.[ii]