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Mediation is an out-of-court method for resolving divorce-related disputes. It offers multiple advantages over adversarial, vindictive litigation. Unlike a hostile court atmosphere, divorcing couples get to resolve their conflict in a friendly and neutral environment.
In addition to terminating the marriage and agreeing on child custody, divorce mediation involves dealing with financial matters. The process includes marital property division, child support, and alimony negotiations.
In contrast to a litigated divorce, there is no mandatory discovery in mediation. Parties exchange relevant information voluntarily and informally. That applies to financial information as well.
Florida divorce mediation rules require the Financial Affidavit form as the only formal instrument required for sharing financial information. Each party must complete the form and share it with the other side. Because the mediation process involves the free flow of information, the mediator encourages the parties to share financial details honestly and accurately. The outcome of the process depends on how honest the parties were while exchanging financial information. Since mediation is confidential, neither party needs to fear their financial record will become publicly available.
But what happens when one or both parties fail to disclose financial information accurately? Is there a way to compel a non-compliant spouse to share their financial details during mediation?
Exchanging financial information through the Financial Affidavit form proves to be an effective disclosure method during divorce mediation. Failing to disclose such information honestly using an Affidavit form means the other party can file a Motion for Mandatory Disclosure. The non-compliant party (who hides the assets) can face sanctions via a Motion for Contempt, which can also include paying the other side’s attorney’s fees.
Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure deal with mandatory disclosure. Rule 12.285 regulates various aspects of the disclosure, including the scope of application, timeframe for production of documents, and types of documents, as well as exemption from the requirement to file and serve a Financial Affidavit. The Rule also details the obligation to supplement disclosure or amend Financial Affidavit and sanctions for failing to disclose financial information.
1. Scope of application. The disclosure rules apply to all family law proceedings except proceedings involving adoption, simplified dissolution, enforcement, contempt, injunctions for protection against domestic or sexual violence (or stalking), and uncontested dissolutions (in case of service by publication).
According to the Rule, a party must serve the required documents in any proceeding for an initial or supplemental request for permanent financial relief, including, but not limited to, a request for child support, alimony, equitable distribution of assets or debts, or attorneys’ fees, suit money, or costs.
2. Timeframe. Florida disclosure rules provide specific timeframes for producing required documents.
If any party seeks temporary financial relief, they must serve the required document to the other party for inspection and copying at least ten days before the financial hearing.
In case of initial and supplemental proceedings, the party must serve the documents for inspection and copying within 45 days, counting from the service of the initial motion.
3. Exemption from Requirement to File and Serve Financial Affidavit. Rule 12.285 provides that parties seeking a simplified dissolution of marriage without no minor children or support issues do not have to file and serve a financial affidavit.
4. Types of Documents. In any proceeding for temporary financial relief, a party must serve the following documents to the other party:
5. Duty to Supplement Disclosure and Amended Financial Affidavit. Florida mandatory disclosure rules oblige the party to continually supplement and amend the above documents (including financial affidavits) whenever a material change in their financial status occurs.
6. Sanctions. Failing to produce and serve the required documents within specified timeframes results in sanctions. The documents submitted in violation of the rules will not be admissible as evidence. In addition, the court may impose other sanctions on the party or the offending lawyer.
Ann Goade is a certified Florida family mediator with over three decades of experience.
Mrs. Goade knows all the nuances of family mediation, including financial disclosure. Using her years-long experience, she can help you provide honest and accurate financial affidavits during mediation and avoid mandatory disclosure procedures.
Please reach out today to schedule your appointment.