If a creditor is successful in pursuing a lawsuit against you for an unpaid debt, the courts will enter a final judgment against you. Once that judgment is entered, the creditor can then send you a form asking for your full financial disclosure. This form is known as the fact information sheet, and it’s an important part of the process. If you fail to fill it out, are dishonest in your answers, or don’t fully cooperate, you can face criminal charges.
The Fact Information Sheet
The fact information sheet is more officially known as Form 1.977 or Form 7.343. These forms allow the creditor to perform a consolidated discovery, or learn about your entire financial situation. This helps them understand how to best proceed with the judgment.
There are guidelines set out for the fact information sheet in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. When entering a judgment against you, the judge will also likely include a paragraph about the fact information sheet. When you receive the fact information sheet, it will also contain instructions about what to include, and the importance of filling it out completely and accurately.
The fact sheet and all associated information must be returned to the creditor within 45 days of receiving it. Upon completion, you must sign the fact sheet and you must do so under oath. It’s for this reason that if there is any misleading information or fraudulent statements within the fact sheet, you can face perjury charges. Documents typically requested along with the fact sheet include tax returns, deed, and car titles.
The financial situation of certain debtors is sometimes very complex and the allowed 45 days may not be enough time to collect all the necessary documents. When this is the case, the creditor can ask the court to extend the deadline. If the courts allow it and you miss the second deadline, you can still face criminal charges of contempt of court.
Information About a Spouse
Fact information sheets sometimes ask questions or request documents that pertain to a debtor’s spouse. When this is the case, the debtor is often reluctant to fill in this information, knowing that their spouse isn’t responsible for the debt. However, this is usually a mistake. If a creditor asks for information, in most cases you must provide it. Even if you don’t, the information is discoverable anyway, so the creditor will still likely find it. More so, failing to provide any information may be considered either perjury or contempt of court.
In some cases, providing information about a spouse’s finances can actually help a case. If it is demonstrated that the spouse also has few attachable assets, it can validate the claims of the debtor’s financial situation.
Failure to Comply
Filling out the fact information sheet and signing it under oath is not an optional part of the proceedings when there is a judgment against you. If you are dishonest when providing information, or fail to return the fact information sheet by the deadline, the creditor will take legal action against you.
First, a creditor will file a motion to compel. This is asking the court to order you to return the fact information sheet or provide additional information. If the creditor does not receive an answer, they will file a second motion to compel.
Once the second motion is filed, if you still do not answer or fully cooperate, a judge can issue a civil bench warrant. This is a warrant for your arrest. If you are arrested, you will likely face criminal charges for perjury or contempt of court.
Re-submitting a Fact Information Sheet
There’s no question that submitting a fact information sheet is nerve-racking. One small mistake and you could face serious consequences. In addition, the process of handing over your most personal information is not something most people enjoy going through. For these reasons, it’s natural to feel relieved when the entire process is over and you no longer have to fear it.
However, you should know that if you’ve been asked to submit a fact information sheet once, the creditor will likely ask you to fill out another one in the future. This is discouraging for most people to hear, particularly when they learn that there is no limit as to how many times a creditor can ask for this information.
The creditor will do this if they suspect that there has been a change in your financial situation. For example, if some time has passed, they may assume that although you were unemployed when the final judgment was entered, you may have found a job by now. Or, they may see on your credit report that you were recently approved for a credit card or a loan, and ask you to submit your financial information again.
It’s important to remember that when you’re re-submitting a fact information sheet, all the same rules still apply. You must include whatever documentation is requested, and you must answer all questions as honestly and accurately as possible. Failing to do so could result in the same criminal charges that applied when you filled out the sheet the first time.
Although there is no limit to how many times a creditor can ask for a fact information sheet, a judge will apply the test of general reasonableness to a request for one. If the original fact information sheet was submitted only two months ago, a judge may not find it reasonable for the creditor to ask for another. Generally speaking, though, judges will grant the request approximately once a year.
Don’t Fill Out This Sheet Alone – Call a Fort Lauderdale Debt Defense Lawyer
If you’ve had a final judgment entered against you, don’t try to handle the rest of the process on your own. This is an extremely stressful time, and it’s crucial that you take the right steps. A Fort Lauderdale debt defense attorney can advise on what those are in order to make it as easy as possible.
At Loan Lawyers, we want to help people through the debt collection process in whatever way we can. If you’re facing debt, we can help prepare defenses against aggressive creditor tactics and if you’re facing legal action, we can advise on how to proceed. You don’t have to go through any part of this process alone. Call us at (954) 523-HELP (4357) or fill out our online form for your free consultation.
Loan Lawyers has helped over 5,000 South Florida homeowners and consumers with their debt problems, we have saved over 2,000 homes from foreclosure, eliminated more than $100,000,000 in mortgage principal and consumer debt, and have recovered over $10,000,000 on behalf of our clients due to bank, loan servicer, and debt collector violations. Contact us for a free consultation and find out more about our money back guarantee on credit card debt buyer lawsuits, and how we may be able to help you.