If you are just beginning or are in the midst of your Florida divorce, it is highly likely that you are feeling overwhelmed. Please know that your circumstances are not unique and therefore, you are not alone. Most people in your situation feel as overwhelmed as you do.
Not only are you experiencing a major life change, but also, you are required to do some challenging work when you file for divorce. Most clients do not know this at first. They generally assume that their attorney is tasked with everything that must be done to see the divorce to completion. While your attorney does his or her part to move the case forward, there are tasks for which only you are responsible.
Two of your most time consuming and important responsibilities are completing the Financial Affidavit and compiling your Mandatory Disclosure in preparation for exchange with your spouse’s attorney. These responsibilities are addressed in Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, Rule 12.285. This Rule applies to represented spouses, as well as, to prose, or unrepresented spouses.
The Financial Affidavit happens to be the first task listed under Rule 12.285(e) in our Mandatory Disclosure Rule. Generally, everyone struggles to complete this affidavit correctly and completely. Therefore, do not despair if you are feeling overwhelmed by what appears to be a Herculean task because it is not an easy job. The Financial Affidavit is a microcosm of your financial world. It must be accurate. It must be truthful and you must put in a respectable amount of time to complete it correctly. It’s not fun, but given that this is the document that will be used to calculate child support and spousal support, it better be right. This process may require multiple drafts. You and your lawyer may go back and forth several times to make sure the document is a true reflection of your financial situation. You may feel like you are in numbers purgatory and that your lawyer is being too picky. Rest assured, your lawyer is just looking out for your best interests given the importance of this document.
Mandatory Disclosure Rule 12.285(e)(2)-(16) lists the many documents you must produce, if they apply to your financial world. Again, not fun, but necessary and required by the rules. These disclosures, along with the Financial Affidavit are to be exchanged by the parties within 45 days of the initial pleadings being served on the Respondent. If you don’t do this or don’t do this on time, your future will likely involve court hearings on your failure to comply, possible contempt of Court, and sanctions which include, as the Rules state “dismissal or striking of pleadings.” The more common sanction is the Court ordering you to pay or make a contribution to your spouse’s attorney’s fees and costs for your failure to comply and provide your discovery in a timely fashion. This can be costly and it is completely avoidable, therefore, it behooves you to comply and timely provide your mandatory disclosure.
So, you may ask, what will I have to produce? The list includes such items as state and federal tax returns, pay stubs, loan applications, checking and savings account statements, credit card statements, deeds, leases, benefit fund and investment statements, and life insurance policies. The actual list is larger and considerably more detailed but the above list gives you some perspective of the types of documents that are required under Rule 12.285.
Knowledge often has the effect of easing those feelings of being overwhelmed that are associated with a huge life event such as divorce.
If you are contemplating filing for a Florida Divorce, or find yourself needing help while in the middle of a Florida Divorce, we would be honored to assist you, please contact Schwam-Wilcox & Associates.