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The Probate and Family Court is trying to reduce its own and the parties' "paper work" burden by requiring each party to automatically give the other party the kinds of documents that should usually be exchanged (link to sample list of documents). For the party who may not have much information about the family finances, assets and the like, this is a way of making sure the information is shared rather promptly. For the party who has this financial information, this is a way of putting the other party in a position of knowing what is involved, which may produce a quicker resolution of issues. In any event, self-disclosure will avoid the need for each party to pay his or her attorney to make the kinds of formal demands that used to be made, thereby reducing attorneys fees.
Supplemental Probate Court Rule 401(a)
Rule 401(a) requires that within forty-five (45) days from the date of service of the summons in a case where assets or financial relief are involved, each party must provide the other party with a "complete and accurate financial statement showing, insofar as possible, the assets, liabilities and current income and expenses of both parties and children involved in the case." The Court has two forms that must be used, a short form for those earning under $75,000 per year and a long form for those earning over $75,000 a year.
Under Rule 401(b), if there is to be a hearing seeking temporary orders or a pre-trial, each party is obligated to automatically provide the other with a financial statement "no later than two (2) business days prior to the hearing or the conference without the necessity of a request for such statements."
Rule 401(d) requires the court to "impound" these financial statements or keep them separate from the other papers in the case and they "shall not be available for public inspection."
Rule 401(e) requires the financial statements to be signed by each party under the pains and penalties of perjury.
Rule 410(f) permits either party to request the other party, upon ten (10) day's notice, "to furnish a signed, current financial statement to the court with a copy to the requesting party." No request can be made within ninety (90) days of a prior request, except by order of the court.
Per Rule 401(d) the financial statements are available to the court, the attorneys (whose appearances are entered in the case), the parties to the case and to employees of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, where necessary. (emphasis added).
You should know that your lawyer must also sign your financial statement, attesting that he or she has "no knowledge that any of the information contained [therein] is false."
Therefore, for example, if you tell your lawyer about an asset, you must disclose that assets on your court-filed financial statement. Otherwise your attorney will not sign the above statement, leading to questions by the court and opposing party. This requirement is not really new, as we have indicated above, you must not expect your lawyer to do or say anything which is not true, the other side of which is not to expect your lawyer to keep quiet if you make a false representation to the court. It may be, however, that your understanding of what you have hear called the attorney-client privilege is something other than what is discussed in this paragraph. If so, you should talk with us about your concerns and questions.
Supplemental Probate Court Rule 410
Supplemental Probate Court Rule 410 requires certain mandatory self disclosure to take place within forty-five (45) days from the date of service of the summons.
Rule 410 (a)(1)
Rule 410 (a)(1) requires that if the following documents are in your possession, you must provide us with copies, so that we can provide those to the opposing party. The self-disclosure documents are:
Rule 410(a)(2) requires parties to supplement all disclosures as material changes occur during the progress of the case. Neither party is permitted to file any discovery motions prior to making his or her own initial self-disclosure.
Rule 410(b) provides that if a party does not have some or any of the documents which should be in the self-disclosure or has not been able to obtain them in a timely fashion, that party shall state in writing, under the penalties of perjury, the specific documents which are not available, the reasons the documents are not available, and what efforts have been made to obtain the documents. As more information becomes available there is a continuing duty to supplement. And, if the documents are in your control, that is, for example, you can obtain them by calling your accountant, business attorney, bank or credit card company, you are obligated to make those requests!