What is the Purpose of Financial Affidavits and Are They Required in a Florida Divorce?
I am in the process of getting divorced, and my attorney has just given me a form called a financial affidavit to fill out. This information is very personal and providing all of my financial information seems irrelevant to the actual divorce proceedings. Do I need to complete this financial affidavit, and what will the financial affidavit be used for?
In most family law cases, including divorces, child support cases, and modifications of alimony or child support, each party will be required to complete a Family Law Financial Affidavit. A financial affidavit is generally not required for adoptions, injunctions, and uncontested divorces. The financial affidavit is a standardized form prepared by the Florida Supreme Court. There are two different versions of the form: a short form and a long form. Parties with less than $50,000.00 in total gross annual income may use the short form and parties with $50,000.00 or more in total gross annual income are required to use the long form.
The purpose of the financial affidavit is to determine the income, assets, liabilities, and expenses of each party, including any expenses for minor children the parties have in common or minor children from prior relationships. This information is necessary for the determination of alimony and distribution of assets during a divorce, as well as determining child support. With alimony, the court is required to consider each party’s need for alimony as well as each party’s ability to pay. Child support calculations require both party’s incomes.
The information required to properly complete a financial affidavit can be extensive. The first section to be completed is the income section. Each party will need to provide the amount and source of all income they receive. Income must be reported as a monthly amount. If the income is not received on a monthly basis, the party should calculate what that amount of income would be if it were received on a monthly basis. Completing these calculations accurately is very important and checking the other party’s financial affidavit for errors or inaccurate information is equally important. For example, if a party is paid $2,500.00 on a bi-weekly basis, they would multiply the amount they receive bi-weekly ($2,500.00) by the number of times they would be paid for a year (26 times) to get the annual amount they receive. Here, the annual amount would be $65,000.00. Then divide the yearly amount of $65,000.00 by 12, as there are 12 months per year, and the result would be $5,417.00 rounded up to the nearest dollar. This would be the monthly income in wages for someone who is paid $2,500.00 biweekly by their employer. While this may seem like a simple concept, it is not uncommon for people to fill out their financial affidavits incorrectly. In this example, the party being paid $2,500.00 biweekly may assume biweekly equals being paid twice per month. Using those calculations, they would get paid 24 times per year, not 26, and their reported income would be inaccurate by roughly $5,000.00. Other income variations should be accounted for, for example, if you work in an industry where business varies significantly during different seasons and this impacts your income, looking at the past year’s earnings would be best as opposed to what you earned the past six months or the current month you are in.
The income section also requires you to calculate the total number of monthly deductions that will reduce your gross monthly income. Most of the information for these deductions can be found on your paystub or from your employer. To be sure you are accurately reporting these numbers, looking at one year’s worth of paystubs may be helpful. Once the total amount of allowed monthly deductions is determined, that amount is subtracted from your gross monthly income previously calculated to reach your net monthly income, or the amount that goes “in your pocket” each month.
The second section to be completed is the section on expenses. Like income, all expenses should be calculated to reflect the average monthly amount of each expense. For example, if you pay $400.00 for HOA fees quarterly, you would report a monthly expense for HOA fees of $100.00. All expenses should be included, including expenses not listed on the form. Expenses for any minor children are also broken down separately in this section. It is important to be accurate when calculating your monthly expenses. You should also be able to provide supporting information, or evidence, to verify your expenses if they are challenged by the other party. For example, if you reported that you spend $100 per month on clothing, you should have store receipts or purchases from clothing stores for that amount on your bank statements to help support this claim. If you notice an expense on the other party’s financial affidavit that you think is inaccurate, notify your attorney.
The last section to be completed is the assets and liabilities section. Essentially anything of monetary value, whether tangible or nontangible, should be included as an asset. It may be helpful to do a physical walk-through of the home if possible, or a mental walk-through if not, to think about everything you and your spouse own. When determining the value for things, the most accurate value is what you would likely be able to sell the item for. Liabilities and debts include mortgages, loans, credit cards, charge cards, money you owe to others, monetary judgments against you, etc. If an asset is not mentioned during the divorce proceedings, the parties may need to ask for a modification of the final judgment to determine who should get the asset, determine between themselves who should receive the asset, or the asset may be lumped into a category such as “jewelry” which will be awarded to one spouse when the spouses would have preferred to address a certain piece of jewelry separately.
While taking the time and energy to accurately prepare your financial affidavit may seem daunting or unnecessary, many clients unfortunately hurt their own cases by not taking the time and effort necessary to be thorough when providing this information. It is a good idea in most cases to review the other party’s financial affidavit with your attorney to look for any possible errors. The other party may possibly underreport their income, or increase their monthly expenses, to try to reduce or avoid having to pay alimony or child support. Attorneys may not catch mistakes that are not glaringly obvious, as they are not familiar with your financials nor the other party’s financials. It should also be noted that the financial affidavit is required to be completed under an oath that the information contained within the affidavit is true. Lying on the form is considered perjury, which is a punishable criminal offense. Lying on an affidavit also opens you up to impeachment on cross-examination by opposing counsel and the destruction of your credibility with the court, which will only harm your case. Any questions you may have when completing these forms should be addressed with your attorney.
Here at My Florida Family Law Firm, we will take the time gain an accurate and complete understanding of not only your financials, but your spouse’s financials as well. We review both financial affidavits and all documentation provided throughout the discovery process to determine what you are entitled to in alimony, child support, and the distribution of assets and liabilities. We also develop a strategy for your case based on your input and what is important to you. Call us today for your free consultation 24/7 at 407-872-0303 or 352-357-4084.