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Mandatory Discovery: Tips for the Divorce Process

In divorces in the state of Florida, there is a phase called discovery. In Florida, there is a mandatory discovery procedure for all divorces that are not being processed through simplified divorce (only for divorces completely uncontested). The mandatory discovery involves both spouses handing over financial information, and sometimes answering interrogatories (lists of questions answered under oath) or attending depositions (a sort of interview conducted by parties’ attorneys, also done under oath). The discovery process can be long and stressful, particularly in highly contested divorce cases. Here are some tips for getting through the discovery phase quickly, easily, and accurately.

Know the Requirements

Florida law requires the production of financial documents including a financial affidavit (a signed statement under oath including financial information), copies of state and federal income tax returns, gift tax returns, and intangible personal property tax returns. IRS forms applicable to the parties, pay stubs, loan applications, deeds, present leases, and documents related to real property are also required. Further, bank statements, investment account records, and numerous other documents and files may be needed, in addition to any premarital or post-marital agreements between the parties (and, if applicable, records of modifications to them). Failure to submit all of the required documents can be problematic, and parties have a duty to update and supplement all documents or face sanctions imposed by the court. The court can even enter a final judgment on the case, which may favor the compliant party.

Keep It Honest

Remember, most of the financial documents that must be tendered during the discovery process must be tendered and signed under oath. This means that failure to deliver complete and truthful information and to supplement it as needed can be perjury, a crime subject to sanctions and penalties from the court. Additionally, lying, exaggerating, or making understatements in these documents generally does not work for a party’s benefit anyway; when the documents come to light, any deceptions will be revealed, and a judge will not be happy. Keep all activities during the discovery period on the up-and-up, and you will likely get a better outcome, a fairer agreement, and a settlement you can feel good about (in addition to avoiding charges, penalties, or allegations of perjury). Of course, this does not mean that it is impossible to advocate for your interests during the mandatory discovery period. To do this, you may need to seek legal assistance.

Seek Some Help

Navigating the discovery process can be difficult for individuals who have never done so before. However, experienced divorce attorneys have glided through mandatory discovery dozens or even hundreds of times, and can help you through the process. Your divorce attorney can be as involved or uninvolved in your case as you like; he or she can advise you on what your legal rights and obligations are, or even go as far as to procure the necessary documents for you from your accountants, banks, and other entities. With so much at stake, consider contacting a divorce attorney to assist you through the mandatory discovery process. Call Schwartz | White in Boca Raton at 561-391-9943 to speak to a qualified family law attorney today.

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