Limiting Disclosure for Jacksonville Divorce Attorneys for High Net Worth Individuals

The mandatory disclosure rule does not preclude the trial judge from dispensing with discovery beyond the required financial affidavit in a given case. Rather, the provisions of Fla. Fam. Law R. P. 12.285(b-d) are self-executing but not necessarily applicable in all cases. In other words, these particular provisions are so framed as to eliminate the necessity to make a formal request for this discovery and, instead, to make it the responsibility of both parties in a family law or Florida Divorce case to produce the information without such a request. A court may, on the motion of a party or on its own motion, limit the disclosure requirements in this rule should it find good cause for doing so.

Privacy and Florida Divorce Discovery

Ordinarily an order allowing financial worth discovery did not by itself present the kind of irreparable harm necessary for review by common law certiorari. Disclosure of personal financial information was not alone sufficient to establish irreparable harm for common law certiorari. See also Eberhardt v. Eberhardt, 666 So. 2d 1024 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996) (production of income tax returns in action for accounting indistinguishable from financial worth information sought in Martin-Johnson; mere production of financial worth without more insufficient to show irreparable harm). See Bared & Co. v. McGuire, 670 So. 2d 153 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).

The kind of discovery that might cause injury of an irreparable nature was illustrated by “cat out of the bag” information. The court defined such a disclosure as “material that could be used by an unscrupulous litigant to injure another person or party outside the context of the litigation.

The constitution of the State of Florida contains an express right of privacy. Although there is no catalogue in our constitutional provision as to those matters encompassed by the term privacy, it seems apparent to us that personal finances are among those private matters kept secret by most people. See Winfield v. Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, 477 So. 2d 544 (Fla. 1985) (law in Florida recognizes an individual’s legitimate expectation of privacy in individual’s private bank account, financial records). Disclosure of income and personal investments is often not made even to siblings and others within the immediate family, much less to strangers. Private financial worth information is thus usually withheld from the world at large unless the courts compel such disclosure. Even then, disclosure is made only so far as necessary.

The scope of discovery in a divorce modification proceeding is necessarily narrower than in a plenary proceeding to establish the need and amount of such support in the first instance. Where there has been no prior adjudication of the support issue, as for example when a dissolution of marriage or paternity case is first filed, it is usually necessary to require broad disclosure by both parties to provide a trial judge with an evidentiary basis to decide contested issues as to support. When the issue is modification of prior adjudications of support, however, the necessity for discovery is decidedly different. The prior adjudications must necessarily be understood to have been made on a record of known facts about financial worth. Thus, assuming that a Florida court has the authority to modify another state’s support order, any new discovery should properly be limited to the precise change in circumstances properly alleged and cognizable in the requested modification. In this case, however, the trial judge did not engage in the kind of analysis just outlined as to the permissible scope of discovery.

Woodward v. Berkery, 714 So.2d 1027 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997)

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