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!