Is Mandatory Disclosure Really Mandatory?
Most people know that divorce is tough on everyone involved. But many who have never been through a divorce are unaware of the procedures you must go through to get a judge to sign off on your dissolution paperwork. In most states, a judge will require divorcing couples to turn over financial information to one another as a case gets started.
However, in Florida, the legislature went one step further and codified this concept into law. The result is the Florida Mandatory Disclosure Rule that legally requires each spouse to turn over all financial documents at the outset of a family matter involving money. Today, we’ll look at this rule and what it means to your case.
What Is Mandatory Disclosure?
Mandatory disclosure requires that each party in a family law matter disclose records that paint an accurate picture of each party’s financial position. Each party must produce this information within 45 days of service of the initial action. Only after the parties disclose this information can the judge divide their combined assets equitably and fairly.
Beyond the equitable distribution of assets and debts, mandatory disclosure helps a judge decide issues of spousal and child support. Essentially, it is only through this mandatory financial disclosure that a court can accurately assess the monies that should rightfully be distributed or awarded to either party to a divorce or other family law matter that involves money.
If one party fails to produce the required documents in a timely fashion, the court can dismiss the case or refuse to consider the requests of the defaulting party.
Why Do I Have to Provide All of This Information?
Rule 12.285 of the Florida Family Code provides that any party involved in a divorce who is making an initial or supplemental request for relief must provide verification of assets and income. Simply put, if you are in a divorce and there is any request or dispute over a financial issue such as child support, alimony, or the distribution of assets, there will be mandatory disclosure of your finances and assets. This disclosure also helps prepare your attorney, so they make sure you are treated fairly by the court as it distributes your assets and determines other financial issues.
Please note that if this is a simple divorce with no children and the couple has already agreed on how to split the shared assets, then full mandatory disclosure may not be necessary.
What Documents Must I Share?
The actual documents that parties must produce will change according to the purpose and needs of the case. First, document production changes depending on how many and what types of assets you have. Then, the production requirements change depending on what you are asking for or responding to. In other words, if you are seeking temporary relief during the pendency of your divorce, the documents you must produce may differ from those you would produce if you were seeking initial, supplemental, or permanent financial relief.
For temporary provisions, you will likely have to disclose your financial affidavit first. In fact, for most requests, you will need to create such an affidavit. This document is one that you create under oath, swearing that it is an accurate picture of your finances at any given point in time. You can use the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b), which is the short form for income under $50,000 per year. Or, you can use the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(c), which is the long form for income over $50,000 per year.
If you seek more permanent provisions, you may need to produce other documents.
According to the Florida Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure Form 12.932, there are a number of required items that must be disclosed, above and beyond each party’s financial affidavit. As you can see from the list on Form 12.932, the documents that must be disclosed can include those that confirm loan verifications, retirement accounts, property deeds, credit account statements, and insurance plans.
However, if you and the opposing party agree to the resolution of all financial issues, you can waive disclosure requirements beyond the need to file your financial affidavit. You do this by filing a Waiver of Mandatory Disclosure that is signed by both parties. But please keep in mind that, even with the waiver, a judge can request some of the waived information if they feel they need it to ensure that the distribution agreement is fair.
As you can see, there is an extensive amount of information you may need to provide, and working with an experienced family law attorney is the best way to ensure that you accurately disclose the proper information.
Other Items That May Be Part of Mandatory Disclosure
In addition to the items specifically listed on Form 12.932, there are other items that your attorney can make part of this disclosure.
This is a list of questions your attorney can present to the opposing spouse that they must answer in writing. The answers to these questions are considered official court documents, so you must tell the truth. In fact, the State prosecutor can charge your divorcing spouse with perjury for making false statements on interrogatories. So if you get served, keep in mind that it is critical for you to tell the truth.
Request for Admissions
This is where one party asks the other party to admit or deny something in writing. Just like interrogatories, this becomes a court document, and false statements can result in perjury charges.
Let Us Help!
Don’t try to go through the mandatory disclosure process alone. There are too many traps and too many hidden financial disclosures that you may miss. Make sure the court treats you fairly regarding the division of assets and your financial obligations by letting the attorneys at Jarbath Peña Law Group help you. Call us today at 305-615-1005 or contact us through our online contact form.