Dear Cassie: I just found out that my spouse sent a subpoena for my medical records. Is he allowed to do this?

Dear P.P.:
When a divorce is pending, parties to a divorce can seek records–also called “discovery”–which are relevant to the divorce matter. The issuance of a subpoena is one manner in which records can be sought. A subpoena is a demand that a witness either appear in court, testify at a deposition, or produce requested documents.

Whether or not your medical records are relevant in your divorce matter will depend on the specific facts of your case. For example, if your mental health is in issue, perhaps because custody and parenting time are in dispute, these records could be relevant. Similarly, if your physical health is in issue, perhaps because your ability to work and to earn an income is in dispute as it pertains to either alimony or child support, these records could be relevant.

However, you should understand that your private medical information is also subject to protections under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), as well as the doctor-patient privilege. Therefore, depending on the facts of your case, it may be appropriate for your medical records to stay private. Alternatively, it may be appropriate for there to be only limited disclosure of your medical records.

If you have an objection to the subpoena that was issued, the manner in which to object is called a “motion to quash the subpoena.” Such a motion is filed with the court, and outlines the basis for the objection to the subpoena. The court will then determine whether it is appropriate for the records to be produced, in whole or in part, or if the subpoena will be quashed.

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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.