Right off the bat, ill answer the question that likely brought most readers here, and then explain the specifics in the article that follows for those who care to get the whole story.
“I just received a notice/motion/order that states I need to fill out a fact information sheet or fact sheet, do I HAVE to do it?”
If a judgment has been entered against you, then almost certainly yes you do. If you don't, and continue to ignore the situation there is a good chance the situation will continue to escalate.
Understand that unless directed otherwise by the court you should be complying with all orders, lest you risk subjecting yourself to unpleasant sanctions.
If you have a civil money judgment entered against you in Florida, odds are that part of the judgment is an order that requires you to complete and return Form 1.977 or 7.343. This is a standard provision that is provided for by law in Florida.
These forms are known as the “Fact Information Sheet” and are a sort of consolidated discovery aimed at streamlining and assisting the judgment creditor in ascertaining information from the judgment debtor for the purposes of judgment execution (execution encompasses most of the post-judgment collection techniques and processes allowed by Florida law). The forms aim to provide the judgment creditor with the most critical information regarding a judgment debtor in order to make decisions on how best to proceed to collect on the judgment.
“Discovery” is a term that is frequently used in the legal field and it simply means exactly what the word itself means. Discovery of information about something. In the case of the Fact Information Sheet in Florida, it means the judgment creditor discovering information about the judgment debtors financial situation. (refer to my Judgment Defense page for an explanation of judgment jargon)
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560 is the rule to which provides for post-judgment discovery allowed a judgment creditor. (It is worth noting that although small claims cases in Florida have their own rules, Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.020 provides for the applicability of Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560 even in small claims cases.)
Ill break down the rule in its parts and discuss each part, individually:
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560(a) provides:
In aid of a judgment, decree, or execution the judgment creditor or the successor in interest, when that interest appears of record, may obtain discovery from any person, including the judgment debtor, in the manner provided in these rules.
This means that once a judgment has been entered the judgment creditor has the right to discover information from the judgment debtor in ANY way that the rules provide for discovery. This could mean a judgment creditor could utilize any of the following methods to obtain information from the judgment debtor:
- Request for Production of Documents
- Interrogatories (questions) to be answered under oath
- Request for admissions (asking you to admit or deny the truth or accuracy of a matter)
- Fact Information Sheet
- Subpoena (duces tecum or not)
- And ANY and ALL other methods provided for under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure (See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560(a))
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560 is also the rule that states the court has NO discretion in adding the requirement that a judgment debtor complete and return the Fact Information Sheet.
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560(c) provides:
Final Judgment Enforcement Paragraph. In any final judgment, the judge shall include the following enforcement paragraph if requested by the prevailing party or attorney:
“It is further ordered and adjudged that the judgment debtor(s) shall complete under oath Florida Rule of Civil Procedure Form 1.977 (Fact Information Sheet), including all required attachments, and serve it on the judgment creditor's attorney, or the judgment creditor if the judgment creditor is not represented by an attorney, within 45 days from the date of this final judgment, unless the final judgment is satisfied or post-judgment discovery is stayed. Jurisdiction of this case is retained to enter further orders that are proper to compel the judgment debtor(s) to complete form 1.977, including all required attachments, and serve it on the judgment creditor's attorney, or the judgment creditor if the judgment creditor is not represented by an attorney.”
Another frequent question goes something like:
“I am filling out the form, but I won't fill out information about my spouse. He/she isn't responsible for this debt. Do I have to fill that part out?”
This depends, but generally yes you need to. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560(d) provides specifically for the manner in which the form may be compelled with respect to the spouse, but even if the court hasn't ordered it yet, it can be discovered anyway.
Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.560(d) provides:
Information Regarding Assets of Judgment Debtor's Spouse.
In any final judgment, if requested by the judgment creditor, the court shall include the additional Spouse Related Portion of the fact information sheet upon a showing that a proper predicate exists for discovery of separate income and assets of the judgment debtor's spouse.
Even without a specific paragraph in the judgment providing for the spouse portion, the rule provides for broad discovery powers under the rules, so the information is discoverable anyway. For some judgment debtors, providing the spouses information can help demonstrate that the judgment debtor has little or no attachable assets.
Another very common question:
“What happens if I don't fill it out” or “Can I get creative with my answers?”
If you fail to fill it out, notarize, and return it; then the judgment debtor may utilize various methods provided for under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and Judicial Administration to ensure your compliance.The same goes for evasive or incomplete answers. And forget providing outright false information as the forms are required to be sworn; so misinformation could potentially constitute perjury.
This can be done in a variety of ways, but might look something like:
- A motion to compel (asking the court to specifically direct you to answer)
- A second motion to compel
- An Order to Show Cause (sometimes called a Rule to Show Cause)
- A writ of bodily attachment (this is a civil bench warrant)
As you can see, the methods to enforce compliance become increasingly serious and burdensome. Its simply not worth it to continue to ignore the requests to complete the Fact Information Sheet in Florida.
Complying with the requirement is NOT an optional step in the process. Not following through with completing and returning the Fact Information Sheet in Florida after being ordered to is asking for problems; sometimes very serious problems.
You should seriously consider reaching out to an attorney experienced in debt collection and judgment enforcement to guide you through the discovery phase and make certain that you are meeting the requirements of Florida law and any orders entered in your case. An experienced attorney can help you make known any exemptions you may have under Florida and federal law and help you avoid some of the more unpleasant collection methods utilized by Florida judgment creditors.
For some consumers, it is beneficial to them to make their financial situation known to their creditors. If your assets are substantially exempt under Florida and federal law, you have little to be concerned with.
One final question that I get a lot:
"I already completed and sent them the Fact Information Sheet (or any other post judgment discovery), do I have to do this again?"
In Florida, there is no specific time period or limit on the number of times that a judgment creditor can request (or require) you to provide them with information related to your financial situation. The only test I have seen applied to such situations is a general reasonableness test. Realistically, you can expect that they could get a Fact Information Sheet or other post judgment discovery form you around once a year, or more often if the judgment creditor has reason to believe you are undergoing a change in financial circumstances. Again, there is no hard and fast rule to this, but ITS NOT JUST ONCE.
At the Law Office of Alex McClure, I pride myself on working closely with my clients to provide practical solutions to their consumer debt problems.
I do everything in my power to provide options that my clients didn't even know existed before consulting with me.
Contact the Law Office of Alex McClure today to find out how I can help you create a sustainable financial future for yourself.
The Law Office of Alex McClure provides services in Lake Mary, Sanford, Longwood, Deltona, Deland, Orlando and all of Seminole, Volusia, Orange, Brevard and Lake Counties.