Here’s my advice: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the task of completing your Financial Affidavit, consult with a divorce financial planner, who will complete a Lifestyle Analysis and the Financial Affidavit on your behalf. (A Lifestyle Analysis identifies the spending habits of a couple along with the day-to-day living expenses incurred during their marriage, with an emphasis on the last three to five years. It includes recurring and ordinary expenses, as well as non-recurring and unusual ones. It’s often required by the judge, and serves as a verification of the net worth and income and expense statements submitted by both spouses.)
· Realize your attorney will only review your Financial Affidavit for glaring mistakes. Although your divorce attorneys will provide you with the proper forms and basic guidance, don’t expect them to use a fine-tooth comb to go through the numbers you submit. At best, most divorce attorneys will check for only the most obvious errors, and quite honestly, they really don’t have the time or inclination to verify your canceled checks or sort through several years of credit card statements to categorize each and every charge.
Of course, extreme inconsistencies will stand out. If you show your monthly telephone expense to be $10,000, or report that you spend 90% of your monthly income on clothing, they’re likely to question you about it. But if, for example, you state on your Financial Affidavit that you spend $10,000/month on clothes, and this does not represent a widely disproportionate percentage of your income or expenses, your attorney will assume that it’s true, even if you meant to say $1,000. Similarly, you can’t expect your attorney to know if you’ve forgotten to list any but the most obvious expense items.
· Realize you’re under oath . . . and so is he. A divorce Financial Affidavit is executed under oath, often before a Notary Public. You must swear that the information you provide in it is true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief. Your husband will have to do the same when he files his. This means that the bonus he got last year, or the ski trip he charged to your jointly-held credit card, can’t “accidentally” slip his mind (although this does happen frequently and will be the subject of a future article.)
Interestingly, while completing a Financial Affidavit and/or Lifestyle Analysis, some women discover that their husbands are hiding assets. (Actually, this turns out to be the case much more often than most women realize.) Be assured that anyone who deliberately provides false information on a Financial Affidavit is committing perjury, and therefore can be held in contempt of court and face additional sanctions, including possible criminal charges.
One caveat here: A Financial Affidavit can be revised. If your financial circumstances change, you can, and you should, update your Financial Affidavit, even after it has been filed with the Courts.
· Get help, if you need it. Unfortunately, the painstaking task of completing a divorce Financial Affidavit, as important as it is, also falls to you just as you may be feeling least able to cope with this sort of task. While feeling overwhelmed is understandable, please don’t let your emotions detract from the careful, meticulous attention this critical part of the divorce process requires. Get help with preparing this document, if you need to. The information you provide the Courts will be used to determine the division of your assets, alimony and even child support. In short, it lays the foundation for your future financial well-being. Don’t shortchange it.