Ruling allows some divorcing couples to waive filing financial affidavits
The Florida Supreme Court has approved a Family Law Rule Committee proposal that permits divorcing couples, under certain circumstances, to waive the filing of financial affidavits.
The amendments to Rule 12.285, which take effect November 1, apply only to uncontested divorces.
Parties will still be required to exchange the affidavits and “acknowledge that the responsibility to retain records rests solely with them,” the justices stressed in the September 7 order, In Re: Amendments to Family Law Rules of Procedure 12.285, and Forms 12.902(k) and 12.902 (l), Case No. SC2022-1738.
Tampa attorney Cory Brandfon, who chaired a Family Law Rules Committee subcommittee that developed the proposal, said it will protect the privacy of couples who work hard to settle their differences out of court.
“I can recall so many instances where I have to say to clients at the end, I know you knew all the financial information, I know you settled the case, but now you have to file a very intrusive financial affidavit with the court because the rules require it.”
Brandfon assured the Board of Governors at a December 2022 meeting that the proposal contains safeguards.
“It does not obviate the need to exchange financial affidavits, or backup documents for financial affidavits,” Brandfon said. “It does not jeopardize the right of discovery among the parties in any way.”
Justices adopted the proposal, with some modification, over the objection of the Family Law Section and the Association of Florida Magistrates and Hearing Officers.
In comments it filed with the court, the Family Law Section warned that self-represented parties, who can’t be relied upon to retain important documents, will be hurt the most.
“This change could ultimately result in more litigation, increased costs and prohibit self-represented parties or others from obtaining modifications of support and/or proving that relief should be granted from the Final Judgment,” the comment states.
It would be safer, the Family Law Section argued, to adopt an amendment that would seal the affidavits from public view.
The Association of Florida Magistrates and Hearing Officers argued that financial affidavits are “even more important” in family law cases because so many parties are unrepresented.
“Judges, general magistrates, and child support hearing officers regularly utilize the financial affidavit as a benchmark or jumping off point for questioning the self-represented litigants,” the comment states. “Without the financial affidavit the workload of the judiciary, which is already overburdened and understaffed, will be negatively impacted in the family court division of Florida’s circuit courts.”