If you are in court on a family law matter, and there are any financial issues at stake or potentially at stake – alimony, child support, separate support – you will be asked to fill out a financial statement. It is pink, it is detailed, it is tedious.
It is also extremely important.
It is tempting to approximate or guess at the numbers on a financial statement. Few people know how much they spend per week on repairs and maintenance of their home, on clothing, or even on groceries. However, it is worth it to really take the time to paint an accurate picture of your financial situation, including spending habits, income, assets, and liabilities, for the court.
However, your financial statement is a sworn statement filed with the court, signed under penalties of perjury. It is a major vehicle through which the court assesses the veracity of each party throughout the case. If your soon-to-be ex-husband “forgot” to put his 401k on his financial statement and it’s got $400,000.00 in it, the court will look askance at his later filings, and even, potentially, his testimony, later in the case.
Is it a pain to sift through months of credit and debit card statements to establish how much you actually spend on groceries per week? Yes. Yes it is. But, if you are a candidate for receiving alimony, then part of how the court calculates alimony is based on the need of the receiving party. Don’t shortchange yourself by under-representing your need! And if you are receiving child support, make sure you know the exact dollar amount you spend on childcare per week. That, too, will go into the calculation of child support by the court.
No matter whether you are the payor or the payee of child support or alimony, your financial statement is the first and most reliable way to establish yourself as a reliable narrator in your case. It is worth the investment of time and energy to file one that is as accurate as possible under your specific circumstances.
If you find yourself filling out a last-minute, hand-written version in the hallway while you wait for your hearing, make sure to include a footnote about the circumstances under which you are writing your financial statement. That way, if it changes at a later point in the case, it will not negatively impact you.
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About the Author: Elizabeth Dann, Esq. is a family law attorney practicing in Natick, Massachusetts. She is a divorced, single mother of three children who loves soy cappuccinos, plant-based food, and karaoke.