Florida Family Law and Required Discovery

Are you a party to a family law proceeding?  As you are well aware, going through a family law proceeding is stressful and mentally exhausting.  To add to the stress, the law requires parties to a family law proceeding (whether it is divorce, paternity, custody, or a modification case) to produce detailed financial discovery under Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.285.  This statute is specific to family law cases. As a party to a case, it is very beneficial to understand the requirements of financial disclosure.  The more you understand, the quicker you can get through the process with ease.  Without financial discovery, your case will not move along at the pace you desire, which can be frustrating and cumbersome.    

The requirements under the law are very specific and outlined under Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.285. 

In short, the Petitioner (the person who files the proceeding) must produce financial discovery within 45 days of filing the case and the Respondent (the person who receives/is served with the filing) must file within 45 days of service of process. 

The Florida Statute has a list of required financial disclosure.

In short, the statute requires the parties to disclose documents such as bank records, tax returns, credit card statements, deeds, life insurance policies, health and dental insurance cards, etc.  These documents are called “Mandatory Disclosure” and the production of these documents are required in any type of family law proceeding.  It is beneficial to note that parties can elect to waive mandatory disclosure if they wish to settle their case expeditiously.  If you waive your right to exchange mandatory disclosure, the waiver must be in writing and acknowledged and signed by both parties.

Importantly, the statute requires a document called a “Financial Affidavit.”

This is a very crucial document in the realm of family law as it attests to your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.  This document acts as a guidepost for parties to calculate alimony and child support.  Finally, this is a sworn document under penalty of perjury, so complete honesty and full disclosure is required.  The main purpose of a Financial Affidavit is for the parties and the Court to understand a party’s monthly income after all expenses are taken into consideration. 

Discovery is a tedious process, but there are ways to proactively approach it. 

One way to alleviate wasted time and money is to get organized from the outset.  Providing your attorney with electronic files rather than paper files is a great way to save billable time.  The more organized you are when providing documents to your attorney, the better, and it is more economical for you.  Also, creating a list of your accounts which encompass your assets and liabilities is beneficial to provide to your attorney, so he or she understands the nature of your finances. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to get around statutorily required discovery.  It is an annoying and burdensome process, but with your attorney’s guidance, organization, and education about the procedure, you can move through it swiftly and smoothly towards a positive resolution of your case.

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