Florida family financial disclosure rule 12.285 has changed. The new disclosure rule includes providing six (6) months of paycheck stubs, twelve (12) months of checking account statements, twenty-four (24)(!) months of credit card statements, and there is an entirely new requirement to include digital currency statements. Rule 12.285 is considered the bare minimum of disclosure requirements and frequently family law litigants are sent requests for discovery that include a myriad more documentation going back as far as four or five years.
Many people will look at this rule and wonder why? Why do I have to provide all of that information to the other party? Florida requires full financial disclosure in family law cases that involve divorce because all assets acquired during the marriage by marital efforts are considered marital assets. If the parties do not settle their own disputes, the Court is required to make the decisions and are required to distribute the assets according to the law and the facts of the case. Similarly, all debts acquired during the marriage, other than wasteful debt, is considered a marital debt. Again, when the parties do not settle their own disputes, the Court has to make the determination of how to allocate the debt and determine which party pays what debts.
Full financial disclosure is required to ensure both parties have full knowledge of what the marital assets and debts are. For example, in many families one spouse will be in charge of the family finances and the other spouse often does not know how much debt is accumulating, or how much retirement is accumulating. It’s common during a divorce to learn for the first time the other spouse has ran up giant credit card debts. Poor management in family finances can often trigger a divorce filing. Many a spouse has filed for divorce after their home went into foreclosure!
Another reason for full financial disclosure is to determine whether a spouse is entitled to any form of alimony. When calculating for alimony, all of the paying spouse’s financial resources are considered - even non marital assets and income. Ditto when calculating attorney’s fees and costs. If a spouse can establish a need for attorney’s fees, then all the assets and income of the opposing spouse are on the table.
Family law cases involving paternity are a little different, obviously, because there are no marital assets or liabilities to divvy up. However, all income is discoverable when calculating child support and again if there has been a request for attorney’s fees and/or costs.
Once all of this documentation has been gathered, what do you do with it? There is a form that comes in handy for this. It’s Form 12.932, and is attached to this blog as a PDF. It can also be found in the statutes and rules tab of this website or at flcourts.org. The form is basically a check list of what you are providing to the other party that applies to you. Not all of the documentation is going to apply to every person. For instance, if you do not file corporate tax returns it’s not applicable to you.
The rule requires that you send a notice of compliance (Form 12.932) with the rule to the Court and to the opposing party. The notice of compliance will state what documents you are providing to the other party, including the date you provided them. For discovery purposes, you DO NOT SEND THE DOCUMENTS TO THE COURT HOUSE! You send the documents to the opposing party ONLY and you should always keep a set of copies for your records.
Complying with discovery is one of the hardest parts of a divorce, especially if there are a lot of financial records, and the rule just got harder and more demanding. If all you have to do is comply with the new rule, be happy, it can always get worse! As I mentioned earlier, requests for discovery can get down right tedious going back four or five years.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Read the entire form or request a couple of times and cross out the requests that are not applicable to you. Once you have eliminated the items that do not apply to you, the list will probably be much smaller and more manageable.
You can download the certificate of compliance with mandatory disclose here.