On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Tuesday July 16, 2013
In the previous post, we introduced you to some of the mandatory requirements of St. Louis County Circuit Court Local Rule 68 – what we called the “golden rule” of behavior while a dissolution action is pending. If much of Local Rule 68.3 could be described as the “what you must not do” list, Local Rule 68.5 could be described as the “what you must do” list.
The whole idea behind Local Rule 68 is to keep the process fair and efficient. In that spirit, Local Rule 68.5 seeks to encourage openness and settlement by mandatory disclosure of a variety of documents within 60 sixty days of the filing of the petition:
- Federal and state income tax returns for the preceding three (3) years
- Current wage statements or pay stubs
- Documents proving expenses for childcare and health care expenses for the children
In cases where parties seek maintenance, property division or attorney’s fees, the following additional documents must be provided:
- Three most recent bank account statements for all bank or other accounts held individually or jointly
- The most recent statement for any retirement or benefit plan
- Any appraisal of marital property done within the previous year
- Three most recent credit card statements for all credit cared accounts held individually or jointly
- The most recent mortgage statement for any real property owned individually or jointly
- The most recent balance statement on any debt held individually or jointly
The penalty for failing to comply with the mandatory disclosure rules is severe – the court can issue sanctions for the non-compliant party, including attorney’s fees and all costs associated with obtaining the required documents, or rule that the party cannot submit evidence on that non-disclosed issue (for example, the value of a pension plan), or even dismiss the pleadings entirely.
Nondisclosure of discoverable items occurs too frequently, and it can happen at great cost – if a party or the court does not have full information as to all the income sources and property values of the parties, a fair and equitable distribution cannot occur. Hiding the ball could be very beneficial to one party at the expense of the other. Local Rule 68 seeks to eliminate any temptation to take advantage of the other party through discovery abuse. When parties fully comply with the rule, cases generally reach a quicker disposition because neither party must fight to discover hidden assets or questionable valuations. Also, up front disclosure tends to create an atmosphere of trust, which encourages amicable dispositions.
We think that more courts, if not the whole state, should adopt these mandatory rules of behavior, as they protect the children, the parties and the property the court must divide.
If you have questions about St. Louis County Local Rule 68, contact us – we can help.