Mandatory Disclosure in Florida Divorces

July 1, 2015

In a trial such as a divorce, one of the first steps is discovery. The discovery process entails gathering documents and information from the other party, which, in divorce, is the other spouse. The purpose of discovery is to resolve any disputed facts before trial. One important type of discovery in a Florida family law case is called mandatory disclosure.

When Disclosure is Required

Mandatory disclosure is required in any family law case involving a request for financial relief, including requests for alimony, child support, equitable distribution of property, or attorney’s fees. Disclosure is required whether the request is an initial or a supplemental petition.

Disclosure is not required, however, in simplified dissolution of marriage cases and when the petition for divorce is served by constructive service and the other spouse does not respond to service. Constructive service is used when the other spouse cannot be located. It means publishing

What to Include

The Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure lists sixteen categories of financial documents that divorcing spouses must exchange. The list includes items such as bank account statements, tax returns, pay stubs, deeds, pension plan statements, and more.

In addition, the spouses both must file financial affidavits with the court. The financial affidavit contains details about the spouse’s income, expenses, assets, and debts. If either spouse files a significantly inaccurate financial affidavit, that constitutes grounds for reopening a divorce case.

If either spouse’s financial situation changes materially during the pendency of the proceeding, the spouse must supplement the documents filed for mandatory disclosure.

Procedure

The spouses have forty-five days after service of the petition for divorce to complete their mandatory disclosure by mailing or hand-delivering the documents. The deadline may be extended by agreement of the parties. Additionally, either party can file a motion for an extension, which the court shall grant if good cause is shown.

The parties may waive the mandatory disclosure process, but should not do so if either spouse has significant assets or liabilities. Except in a simplified divorce, the couple cannot waive the financial affidavit. Parties may object to mandatory disclosure if they file an objection in writing at least five days before the deadline, in which case a hearing on the objection will follow.

If the case is to establish or modify child support, the parents must file a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. The worksheet helps the parents calculate the correct amount of child support amount, depending on income and the number of children.

When mandatory disclosure is complete, the parties must file a Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure with the court, which swears that disclosure is complete and accurate, and then must deliver a copy to the other spouse.

Purpose of Mandatory Disclosure

By requiring mandatory disclosure early in the divorce proceedings, the expense of litigation is minimized. Disclosing financial information helps to resolve questions of fact, so that time does not have to be spent in the courtroom litigating. Additionally, full disclosure helps the court reach the most fair decision possible.

If you are considering divorce, seeking child support, or pursuing another family law action, an experienced attorney can help you ensure you comply with requirements such as mandatory disclosure. Please contact the experienced West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for an initial consultation.