Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney
When you file for divorce in Florida you should expect to release your financial information to your spouse. Even if you have kept your finances separate during the marriage, most likely you are going to have to provide him/her with information about your bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, etc. In a Florida divorce, both parties are required to provide documentation of their paystubs, bank statements, and other financial accounting information. Florida Family Law Rules of Procedures govern the requirements of what parties have to do in their court action.
As a Jacksonville family law attorney, I often tell clients that the release of information is helpful to both parties because it lays out a detail of all items to be equally divided by the court. Also, if you reach an agreement before going to trial, and both parties have provided the documents, then neither party can later claim that she/he did not know about certain assets. The bank statements can also be the truth tellers when it comes to cases involving alimony requests, asset hiding, etc. The reason is that most of us no longer use cash to make purchases and that bankcard is a great indicator of where money is being spent on a monthly basis.
In Florida, alimony is based on a person’s need and the other party’s ability to pay. If a party is claiming a need for alimony, but using funds to pay for overly expensive haircuts, clothing, or even things like alcohol on a regular basis, then that need may be reduced significantly. Alimony is designed to help with living expenses, not unnecessary expenses. Obviously lifestyle of the parties is taken into consideration so if a party historically had a haircut in the higher range, they will not be expected to start getting their haircut for $10. The bank statements can help show both sides of the can and really paint a picture what “needs” are for each party.
Florida child support calculations are based on the incomes of both parties. IN some cases, a party may have one main job, but does side work, which can be difficult to prove. In addition to providing bank statement information, both parties are required to file financial affidavits with the court, which provide details of income information and monthly living expenses. The financial affidavit is a sworn document, so it’s truthfulness is important. However, many times when a party has more than one income she/he does not list that on the financial affidavit. So, if that party does not provide banks statement information it will be much harder to prove to the court that, in fact, she/he does have another source of income. That is one reason why the State of Florida requires the exchange of documents.
When going through a divorce, an additional benefit of hiring a lawyer, other than having someone to fight for you, is that a good lawyer will take the time to sift through the financial information. It’s a tedious job that many people would not think to do on their own, so when you hire a lawyer it is one less thing on your ‘to do” list before going to a hearing, mediation or trial.