Financial Statement - One of the Most Important Documents in Your Divorce

Posted on November 20, 2014 by Susan Camenker, Paralegal - Otis & Associates, P.C.

If you have decided to go forward in pursuing a divorce from your spouse, your head may well be spinning with all that you have heard from your attorney, family and friends. And now you're told you have to complete a long or short form financial statement (as they are called in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the name may vary state to state). You look at this form and realize that you are now expected to put on paper all of your personal and financial information that previously had been considered extremely confidential and something only you and your spouse were privy to. Or, as is sometimes the case, you have had no knowledge at all of your financial status because this was something your spouse always took care of. Financial statements list in detail your assets and liabilities, what you earn and what you spend. Both parties in a divorce are required to complete a financial statement, independent of each other, and also required to swear, under the pains and penalties of perjury that the information contained in the financial statement is true. Financial statements are extremely important as they play a role in decisions made about child support, alimony, and the final separation agreement. Furthermore, this document will be shared with your spouse (or ex-spouse, in post-divorce cases), opposing counsel, and with the judge who may have considerable control over your case. For that reason, it is very important that the information you have provided is as detailed and accurate as possible; any inaccuracies and/or omissions may lead the Court to draw a conclusion about your credibility ? an unwanted result.

While completing a financial statement with all this in mind may seem like a daunting challenge, it must be done. Clients who make the commitment to do the heavy lifting in completing their financial statement can not only reduce their attorney's fees, but more importantly, they will have a greater understanding of and familiarity with their financial situation at that level of detail that can make a significant difference in the outcome of the case. The key to completing an accurate and thorough financial statement is to approach the task in a systematic way, such as:

  • Familiarize yourself with the form so that you know what information is required.

  • Gather the necessary documents before you begin to actually fill out the form. You will need:

    • Most recent pay stub
    • Most recent statements from bank and brokerage accounts
    • Most recent statements from retirement accounts
    • Most recent statements of stocks, mutual funds, bonds, ETFs held outside of Brokerage accounts
    • Life insurance policies
    • Tax returns from last 3 years
    • Most recent statements from credit card companies
    • Most recent statements from other debts/loans
    • Documentation regarding real estate, to include assessed value of marital home, mortgage amount, names of individuals listed on mortgage or title
    • Documentation on motor vehicles, boats, etc.
    • Recent receipts/copies of utility bills, telephone bills, grocery, tuition, etc.

Your attorney and staff will work with you throughout this process, if you need assistance at any juncture in the preparation of the document. At Otis & Associates, our goal is to make sure that your financial statement, when presented to the court and the opposing party/counsel, is completed in the most precise and meticulous manner possible.

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