Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Financial Disclosure the Good, the Bad and the Necessary

Lately I have found myself and my staff spending an extraordinary time dealing with financial disclosure issues. It is such an annoying thing to deal with because no matter how many documents are turned over in a case, only a handful are ever actually admitted into evidence or needed in a divorce, paternity or custody trial.

When a family matter is filed in Florida, Florida Rule of Family Procedure 12.285 immediately comes into play and certain items of financial documentation are required to be turned over to the opposing side. This includes three (3) months of bank records, three (3) months of pay records, three (3) years of tax returns, etc. Often times a party is also served with a Request to Produce certain items of financial documentation which can be voluminous, expensive and tedious.

The most common comments that I get from clients about a Request to Produce and Mandatory Financial Disclosure are the following:

1. Why do they need it and can't you object?
2. We should file our own Request to Produce and ask for the same things.
3. I don't want to turn this stuff over, its none of their business and I'm not going to do it.
4. Why do I need to provide documentation that is completely not relevant to the issues that we are dealing with?

Generally speaking financial disclosure is busy work and very rarely leads to any documentation that helps prove someone's case in a family matter. Its time consuming and definitely feels like an invasion of your personal privacy. However, the reality of the way that the family law statutes and rules are currently written is that it doesn't matter that the information won't lead to anything that is relevant in a court of law. If someone asks for something, they are most likely going to get it. Failure to turn over documentation leads to delays in a court proceeding, attorneys' fees and sometimes sanctions that lead the Court to believe that you are hiding something. Turning documentation over and taking all the necessary steps to comply with discovery requests is a necessary evil in a family law matter. That's the bad news. The good news is that most of it will never be admitted into evidence, if you have nothing to hide, no amount of paperwork is going to help your opposing side prove their case and by cooperating it speeds up the process and insures that you have clean hands when you go into a court room. So Turn It Over Folks!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Governer Scott Vetoes Alimony and Child Timesharing Bill

Its been a while that I had reason to blog here and it seems that the latest reason is the same as the last reason. In the State of Florida there has been many attempts over the past few years to change and reform alimony. The latest version of the alimony reform bill that landed on Rick Scott's desk has been vetoed. The Bill contained a presumption that 50/50 timesharing is in a child's best interest. Scott gave his reasons for vetoing the bill and it revolved around the notion that the "one size fits all" approach to children in a divorce was not in the best interest of children and families. I have long since believed that in order to truly have alimony reform in the State of Florida that a bill would have to stand on its on and not be lumped in with reform of any other family law issue. The way that our alimony statute is written right now does allow for different results from county to county and judge to judge; however, the statute still outlines the factors the courts must take into consideration when making decisions related to alimony. I have tried quite a few alimony cases and for the most part the judges get it right. The future of alimony reform is still unclear, but hopefully our legislature understands that true reform will have to stand on its own.