Going through a divorce, even an amicable one, can leave you feeling as though your life has been turned inside-out. It’s not easy when documents containing details which were once private start crossing the desks of lawyers and judges, people who are most likely strangers to you. Complicating matters even more, these same lawyers and judges have considerable power over your future, and that’s why --especially where your finances are concerned --it is absolutely critical to provide them with information that’s as accurate and detailed as possible.
If your divorce is contested, and possibly even if it’s not, the Courts will require you and your husband each to file what’s generally called a “Financial Affidavit.” This official document is the formal presentation of a couple’s current financial situation. It lists in detail what you own and what you owe (assets and liabilities), and what you earn and what you spend (income and expenses). Both spouses are required to swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information they provide in a Financial Affidavit is true.
That may all seem straightforward enough at first. But, many women soon find that completing a Financial Affidavit involves much more than paging through a checkbook registry or scanning through last month’s credit card statement. Properly preparing a divorce Financial Affidavit can be anything but simple, and for many, knowing how important it is for temporary alimony, temporary child support and the final divorce settlement agreement makes the task all the more intimidating.
Let me help by offering a few key points you need to know before you get started.
When preparing your Financial Affidavit, make certain you:
· Understand the Financial Affidavit regulations that apply in your state. You may already know that regulations governing the division of separate and marital property and the division of debt are different from one state to another. Likewise, regulations concerning Financial Affidavits can vary depending on where you live. First of all, Financial Affidavits are called different things in different states. If you live in Connecticut, you will file a “Financial Affidavit,” but in Utah, you’d be asked for a “Financial Declaration.” Couples divorcing in New Jersey are required to file a “Case Information Statement,” while the Courts in New York use a 14-page “Statement of Net Worth” form.
Bottom line: Be sure you know what information your state’s Courts require of you, and that you have the correct forms in hand to provide it.
· Pay attention to every detail. Whatever name they go by in your state, all Financial Affidavit forms ask for very specific information. You will be required to itemize your every expense according to category –from the obvious ones such as mortgages, cars and school tuitions, to things you might not immediately think of, such as hair care, pet sitting and magazine subscriptions. Remember: The “little” expenses can add up significantly, and errors or omissions could affect the financial outcome of your divorce agreement.
Sorting through months of credit card and bank statements, utility bills, insurance records and the like to ferret out all the particulars you need for your Financial Affidavit can seem daunting (and tedious!), but it is necessary. Familiarity with your financial situation at that level of detail can make a significant difference in the picture your Financial Affidavit will present to the Courts . . . and so, no matter how difficult the process becomes, please resist the urge to guesstimate a response! Most people who guess at their financial information end up way off the mark, and ultimately, that can do more harm than good.