Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
In a Florida divorce, the assets and debts of the party are usually divided equally. Due to this aspect of a Florida divorce, many people believe that they can hide assets from their spouse in order to protect their own interest. In so doing, it is not only presenting false information to your spouse, but also to the court, which can have negative repercussions, such as later having the divorce overturned due to fraudulent activity. So, when someone asks if they should hide assets, the answer is going to be, “no.”
In a Florida divorce, the rules of family law procedure, which govern the proceedings, require that each party file mandatory disclosure items with the other party. The mandatory disclosure item requires each party to fill out and swear to the truth of their financial affidavit. A financial affidavit provides information regarding all forms of income and monthly expenses of the spouse. Each spouse is required to file his/her own financial affidavit. This document is sworn to, so you want to make certain it is filled out as accurately as possible so as not to lead to later discovered evidence that contradicts the form.
In addition to the financial affidavit, each party is required to provide the other bank statements for all accounts; any and all applications for loans, mortgages and the like; paycheck stubs; tax returns; mortgage accounts; deeds; etc. The list is provided in the Mandatory Disclosure list as established in the Florida Family Rules of Procedure. Not complying with the rules can lead to additional court action and can potentially mean that the court imposes attorney fees and costs to the party who does not comply. The idea is that each party has to provide full disclosure to the other so that all items are properly divided and addressed in the divorce action.
If a party feels that additional information is necessary to fully understand the financial picture of the marriage, then that party may file a request to produce documents. There are normally time constraints imposed for providing said documents, which is typically 30 days. If the documents are not provided in a timely manner, then again, you may be on the hook for the other party’s attorney fees and costs associated with enforcing the request. Furthermore, if there are documents that are not or cannot be provided because they are not readily available to you or the other party, then the documents may be subpoenaed. What that means is, for example the other party does not provide payroll information, then the party’s employer may be subpoenaed to provide the documents. While it is an uninvolved third party, the subpoena is legally sufficient to require their participation. Again, they typically have 30 days to comply.
If you are going through a divorce, then it is a good idea to speak with an experienced family law attorney to make certain that you are in compliance with certain court requirements, but to also make certain that your legal rights and options are protected. Understanding the process and being properly represented can be beneficial to the overall divorce process.