How do you and your spouse share the finances?
Most married couples have their finances mixed together. For instance, it is not unusual for a married couple to share credit cards, savings and checking accounts, real estate, and other property. When parties go through a dissolution, these finances must be untangled. The process of distributing assets to each party is known as equitable distribution. The process of exchanging financial information with the opposing party is known as mandatory disclosure. The Family Law Rule of Procedure, Rule 12.285 details what information must be disclosed as well as the time periods for disclosure.
What forms do you need to complete?
The financial documents that are provided by each of the parties can be reviewed by the court. Interestingly, the rule only requires that a financial affidavit be filed in the court’s docket. The other documents are typically just exchanged between the parties. If one party or another wishes for the court to consider any of them, they must be introduced in court or the parties may stipulate to their entry.[i] Either party may request additional financial or other documents from the other. Sometimes the initial sharing of documents fails to satisfy the opposing party, or the opposing party has additional questions about the other party’s finances. The initial exchange of mandatory disclosure documents are due within 45 days of the initial filing of a petition. Additional requests for documents are due within 30 days normally. It is important to remember that one’s financial situation is dynamic. Therefore, when a change occurs (i.e. new job a different pay rate) a party may be obligated to file a new financial affidavit during the pendency of a case. A financial affidavit lists a party’s income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. The official Florida Family Law Financial Affidavit comes in two versions. One version is for earners that earn over $50,000 per year LONG FORM AFFIDAVIT and the other form is for parties that earn less than $50,0000 per year.SHORT FORM AFFIDAVIT Failure for a party to list financial assets or liabilities can result in negative consequences that can be as serious as reconsideration of the final judgment.
What documents do you need to collect?
In Florida, there are sixteen different items listed that are related to a party’s financial situation that are enumerated in the disclosure rules. Very few people will have every document listed. If a document is not in a party’s possession, but it is “reasonably available”, then that party must make an effort to obtain the document. There are some cases where a party may have a legitimate right to object to producing certain documents. Another aspect of the discovery process is known as interrogatories. Interrogatories are questions that are served on the opposing. There is usually a 30-day period that a party has to answer the interrogatory questions. There are some standard interrogatories that are used in most family law cases, but a party may draft their own questions, as well. Another tool in the discovery process is known as a request for admissions. A request for admission is a statement that the opposing party must admit or deny usually within 30 days. If a party fails to file a denial, the rule requires that the statement is considered admitted. As one might expect, it is sometimes not possible to complete the collection of all documents responsive to a request within the time frame required. Fortunately, a party may request an extension of time from the court. When a party has completed their duty to provide mandatory disclosure documents, they file a certificate of compliance.
How does mandatory disclosure and the discovery process help resolve a case?
Mandatory disclosure is an essential process in most Florida divorces that helps each party understand the other’s financial situation. Frequently, there is disagreement over which are assets are marital or non-marital and as to how the assets should be distributed. If you would like more information on the discovery process or on mandatory disclosure, call the Law Office of David M. Goldman and speak to an experienced family law attorney. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand mandatory disclosure and the discovery process.
About the author
Neil Weinreb is a licensed Florida attorney who has been practicing family law for over 15 years in North Florida. Mr. Weinreb works for the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Weinreb has worked as an adjunct professor teaching law to paralegal students at Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida. You can contact Mr. Weinreb at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation today to find out how having an experienced attorney on your side can help. Call (904) 685-1200 today. Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, 4115 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, Florida 32207. Telephone (904) 685-1200.
[i] There is a cause of action known as a simplified dissolution that does not require the filing of financial affidavits, as the parties are required to have already agreed to and have distributed all marital property.