In every action, whether it be a Chicago divorce or parentage matter, one of the first steps is for each party to complete a Financial Affidavit. A Financial Affidavit is a sworn statement, under oath, outlining the financial situation of both parties including, but not limited to, income, assets, liabilities, monthly expenses, accounts and the like. The purpose of a Financial Affidavit is to assist the Court and attorneys in getting a clear, accurate, and brief snapshot of each parties’ financial situation to move your case toward resolution. What does this mean? The information provided in the Financial Affidavit coupled with the supporting financial documentation can allow for calculations of child support, contributions to child-related expenses (such as health insurance coverage and costs, extracurricular activities, educational expenses), maintenance calculations (also known as alimony), balance sheet preparations for divorce cases outlining the marital assets and liabilities and proposed options for allocation between the parties.
Many people in parentage cases wonder why they need to complete a Financial Affidavit and more importantly, why they need to disclose their financial situation, to a person they are no longer in a romantic relationship with. However, a Financial Affidavit in parentage cases is extremely important in helping the Court decide issues of child support and child-related expenses. In Illinois, when the parties are unable to come to an agreement on child support and contribution to child-related expenses, the Court will hold what is known as a summary hearing in which the Court will look primarily at the Financial Affidavit of each party as well as their supporting documentation to make a ruling on the issue of child support and contribution to child-related expenses. Oftentimes, Judges will solely use the parties’ Financial Affidavits and will not even hear arguments by attorneys, thus making the Financial Affidavit one of the most important documents in a parentage matter. When completing a Financial Affidavit in a parentage case, it is important to ensure that you fully and accurately list out every and all expenses for your minor child as this will be imperative in determining if you owe a duty to further contribute to child-related expenses or if you are owed a reimbursement for the same. Some of these child-related expenses can include health insurance coverage and costs, extracurricular activities, educational expenses, childcare providers and the like.
Unlike in a parentage case, a Financial Affidavit in the event of a divorce is used in several ways. The first way in which a Financial Affidavit is used in a divorce matter is to assist the attorneys and both parties in starting settlement discussions. Once both parties have exchanged their Financial Affidavits, your attorney will typically use the information provided to create what is known as your Marital Balance Sheet. A Marital Balance Sheet is a tool used to calculate the total value of a marital estate and determine what a fair and equitable distribution of that estate would look like. It should list all assets and all liabilities and even make note of any non-marital entities or items that need review, valuation or appraisal. This tool can often help you and your attorney get a realistic picture of the finances and the overall trajectory of your case moving forward. Often, in an amicable divorce, the Financial Affidavit is the only financial discovery needed as the information provided in the Financial Affidavit and the Marital Balance Sheet can be used to move your case toward a swift resolution. However, the Financial Affidavit can also be used in determining whether there is a need for further discovery. When reviewing your spouse’s Financial Affidavit, you and your attorney may determine that there are some pitfalls in your spouse’s response warranting a further and more detailed investigation into your spouse’s financial situation, hence the issuance of formal discovery such as formal interrogatories and notice to produce.
The other way Financial Affidavits are used in divorce cases is similar to parentage cases. Similar to parentage cases, in an action for divorce involving minor children, the Financial Affidavit is utilized by the Court during a summary hearing to determine each parent’s financial obligation to the minor children in regard to child support and child-related expenses. The Courts will also use the Financial Affidavit in determining issues of maintenance, which is also known as alimony, and attorneys’ fees to determine if such an award is appropriate and the means by which it can be paid. Much like with child support, a Judge will likely rely very heavily on your Financial Affidavit in making these determinations and may even do so without any argument from your attorney.
For most people, the most daunting task at the start of a case (next to deciding to actually initiate the case) is having to fill out the Financial Affidavit.
Below are a few helpful tips and tricks to keep in mind when preparing your Financial Affidavit:
1. Gather all your documents. When submitting your Financial Affidavit, you should also submit the following documents: year-end pay statement; at least three (3) most recent pay statements; two (2) previous years of income tax returns; W2’s/1099s etc; three (3) of your most recent checking, savings, a and credit card account statements; and any and all other documents evidencing the numbers provided on the Financial Affidavit (i.e. bills, updated retirement/investment account statements; mortgage statements; and the like). It is important that when you are filling out the numbers on your Financial Affidavit that the number can be backed up with supporting documents; therefore, gathering all of these documents beforehand can make the process run much smoother.
2. Fully answer each item of the Financial Affidavit. The most common misconception people have when completing the Financial Affidavit is to assume that a certain expense does not apply to them simply because they do not incur the expense every month. Even if you incur the expense every 6 months, the expense still applies to you and therefore must be accounted for. When completing the Financial Affidavit look at your documents to determine what an average amount spent would be and use that as your number, again with supporting documentation for the monthly, quarterly or annual expense.
3. Remember this is a sworn affidavit. When filling out your Financial Affidavit, accuracy is everything. Therefore, if you have any questions about the Financial Affidavit whether it pertains to completing it or how it is used it is always best to consult an attorney, it is better to ask then get it wrong. The attorneys at Ward Family Law, LLC are willing and ready to talk you through this daunting process whether it be through a Chicago divorce or parentage case.
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