When a couple is seeking a divorce, the financial affidavit plays a vital role in the process.
A financial affidavit, when prepared in the process of marriage dissolution, addresses very challenging questions. A judge will utilize this document to make child support and alimony decisions. Because the document carries such weight, individuals must prepare it carefully and truthfully. The affidavit is signed under oath and carries penalties for perjury (knowingly making false statements).
All of the numbers presented in the affidavit should be based on truthful and reliable data. An established financial history is necessary to inform the Court and opposing attorney of your income, assets, liabilities, expenses, and requirements. Canceled checks and receipts will provide the best evidence of your current expenses. Therefore, you should collect as many receipts as possible – as soon as you realize that a divorce is likely. The more detailed your financial affidavit, the more effective your case will be.
This first financial affidavit is utilized primarily for deciding temporary alimony, child support, and attorney fees at the beginning of the case. This document should portray income and deductions as they occur at present. Before an actual trial, you will submit a secondary financial affidavit to reflect the income tax level expected to be paid by a single person vs. a married couple. This affidavit will answer questions of income required to assess necessary permanent relief.
Income figures are based on pay stubs, tax returns, and other financial records. If income varies for some reason, the Court will ask you to calculate the gross income for the past six to twelve months to determine a monthly average. For the purposes of the affidavit, expenses and deductions will be averaged as well.
The affidavit will look for monthly information, calculated at an average of 4.3 weeks. Some monthly bills, such as credit cards, are typically paid monthly and easy to enumerate, while an individual may purchase groceries weekly (or on an irregular basis). All weekly expenses should be multiplied by 4.3 to arrive at a monthly total.
Assets and liabilities raise different issues. The affidavit needs to determine which spouse is entitled to assets or liable for debts. Typically, Florida law defines marital assets and liabilities as those acquired during the term of the marriage. If the asset or liability is in one party’s name only, it will be included if one individual purchased it during the marriage.
Therefore, if the husband bought a car during the marriage and recorded title in his name, it is still considered a marital asset (and a marital liability if there is a loan).
Important: Any asset or liability acquired before the marriage is not joint.
If asked to draft a financial affidavit, take your time and be as detailed and accurate as possible. It is recommended that you work with a CPA or financial advisor, but your attorney can provide the guidance you need as well. If you are facing a divorce, you should begin to accumulate your financial records and speak to a family law attorney as soon as possible.
Richard V. Ellis is a Sarasota attorney specializing in family law and bankruptcy.