Cracking Open the Piggy Bank
If you are making any kind of filing in Family Court that may involve some kind of finances – child support, alimony, asset division, etc. – you are going to be required to submit some degree of financial information to the court. The most common and frequent submission will be the Rule 401 Financial Statement. If your case is more involved, specifically in the case of a contested divorce that has been brought to court, then you will likely be required to also submit a mandatory Rule 410 Disclosure as well. Finally, depending on the interests in the case, you may also be asked to submit other financial disclosures that are not inherently covered under Rules 401 and 410. We’re going to go over each of these today to give you an idea of what each of these processes entail, but most of this will be about filling out your 401 Financial Statement because it involves your actual input and some budget work – Rule 410 is just a production of documents.
Rule 401: The Financial Statement
The Court requires that each party in a divorce, separate support action, or any other domestic relation action where financial relief is requested submit a financial statement. If you want to see the boring legal authority that governs this, you can check it out here. The financial statement is effectively a snapshot of your current fiscal health at the time that it is completed, and while this sounds straightforward, it often trips a lot of people up – especially when it comes to listing expenses.
When you fill out the Financial Statement (FS), it’s important that you make sure you fill out every field. You cannot leave anything blank. If it asks for an asset or some other financial question that does not apply to you, enter $0.00 or “none” instead of leaving it blank. Blank fields are incomplete information and may raise questions about whether or not you actually do have something from that category that you’re not disclosing. You’ll have to address it no matter what, so now is a good time to do it instead of in court when the judge is questioning your credibility about your finances.
To help fill it out, you should have at least the following items: 3 months of all your utility bills and rent/mortgage statements, past 12 months-worth of paystubs (no less than 3 months), your most recently completed and filed tax returns (include your W2 or 1099’s from all your jobs worked), and some deed or other statement that shows the purchase price, date of purchase, and lot number for each piece of real estate you own. You will need to refer to these items while you fill out the financial statement.
What You’re Making
The thing that trips people up when filling out the FS is that it wants all of your income and expenses broken down by week, and frankly, no one budgets this way. Even if you got paid on a weekly basis, a bunch of your expenses are going to be monthly. So, you’re going to need to look at your pay and invoices and potentially break some things down to fit into the weekly criteria. This can take a while, so don’t wait until the last minute to do this.
Income is generally easy to resolve – take whatever you make if you’re salaried and divide by 52. If you’re hourly and your wages vary, take an average of at least 3 months and then work it out to what that is per week. The same averaging should apply to any other variable income like bonuses and commissions. If you’re self-employed, there’s more information to put in, but the Schedule A is actually a bit easier to fill out because it asks for everything on a monthly basis. Filling out the Schedule A will be a lot like filling out your taxes. It’s going to want to know about any expenses you spent as part of the work, such as professional dues, travel, supplies, etc. Make sure you have your receipts, as well as revenue statements. Income from rental properties requires filling out a Schedule B – which askes for your annual receipts and expenses instead of monthly.
None of the expense costs listed on a Schedule A or a Schedule B should be duplicated in the Expenses section of the FS.
What You’re Spending
Expenses are where people start to get tripped up because they want to know what your weekly expenses are. This means everything that you spend money on, regardless of the frequency of payment. If you pay rent once a month, you need to break it down weekly. Same thing with electricity, heat, your phone. In addition to that, you also need to think about how much you spend on day-to-day living. Don’t short change yourself here. You need to carefully consider everything you spend money on, categorize it, and make sure it’s accounted for. Here are some tips for completing this section – Remember all of these need to be in a weekly cost:
- A lot of residences that have natural gas lines will often use gas for multiple purposes – heating in the winter, hot water, or gas appliances like ovens and ranges. Because you cannot duplicate costs on the FS, you may have to break out how much of your gas is spent on heating your home and how much of it is spent on cooking. If you have a smart thermostat, like an Emerson Sensi, you can potentially generate a report that tells you roughly how much gas you’re allocating to each task and work out your expense from there. Otherwise, you will need to find an estimate. Consider looking at the difference in your gas bills in July and your gas bills in December, which should give you a good idea of what your heating cost is.
- Sections (h) through (j) need you to consider everything you buy for your household and put it into a category of Food, House Supplies, and Laundry and Cleaning. Most people buy all of these things at one store, but like everything else, you need to break it out. House supplies should not include incidentals. Section (o) will need to be categorized the same way. Here are examples for each category:
- Food: Self-explanatory – anything you eat and buy at a grocery store for personal/family consumption. Don’t include any food costs for your side business of selling bread at a local famer’s market. That can be listed in section (s), “Other.”
- House Supplies: This is all of thing stuff that goes into the upkeep and maintenance of your home – but not specific costs for maintenance service. Maintenance costs, like if you pay for a landscaper of someone to service your water heater go in section (c). If you bought gas cans for your . Lightbulbs, batteries, toilet paper, etc.
- Laundry and Cleaning: This should include anything you spend on laundry and cleaning supplies or services. Detergents and fabric softeners, cleaning supplies, cleaning staff, laundromat costs, dry cleaning, etc.
- Incidentals and Toiletries: This is section (o) on the statement, and should include your expenses for things like makeup, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.
- Section (k) concerns clothing – don’t forget to include any money spent on clothes for your children or other dependents as well as yourself.
- Section (n) is where you list medical costs that are not covered by insurance – your copays, deductibles, etc. You can also include home medicines like Tylenol and other pain killers, over the counter medicines, and vitamins. If you don’t have health insurance, this should list everything you pay on health care.
- Section (s), “Other” should list out anything you spend money on that is not covered in a previous section. How much you spend on takeout every week, the cost of your Starbucks run every morning before work, hobbies that consume financial resources, vacations, entertainment costs, subscriptions for things like Spotify or gym memberships, etc. You may need to attach additional pages for this, that’s ok. Feel free to do so.
The rest of the Financial Statement is going to be fairly straight forward, but this is where you will have to reference documents like your purchase and sale agreement for your home, any retirement or bank account statements (you’ll need values, beneficiaries, and account numbers), etc. You don’t need to estimate things as a budget, but you may need to estimate fair values for things like firearms or jewelry or your home. For something like the Fair Value of a piece of real estate, it can be helpful to turn to something like Zillow to just get some basic comparable properties to see what their estimated value is.
If, at any point, you have trouble or are uncertain about something, don’t be afraid to contact your legal team. At our Firm, your Paralegal will be the one who will guide you through the Financial Statement and make sure everything is accounted for. However, putting your best effort forward to organize and account for your income and expenses will make the process much smoother and can save you money in the long run. Remember – the financial statement will need to be updated as the case moves along, so you may have to do this multiple times.
Rule 410: The Mandatory Self Disclosure.
This is going to be fairly straightforward because you don’t really need to do as much in terms of completed the Self Disclosure beyond collecting and organizing documents. The most important thing you need to focus on is making sure that you have your documents organized and collected as soon as possible once your attorney asks for it. By reading this, at the very least, you can get a head start on the disclosure by making a list of all the entities you need to contact.
This is a list of all the document types you will need to track down:
- Completed federal and state tax returns for the past three (3) years for you or any type of business entity in which you and/or your partner have an ownership interest in. This means your individual returns and the returns for the non-profit or for-profit business you own.
- Your four (4) most recent paystubs for each job you’ve worked at in the last year.
- Documents regarding the costs and nature of available health insurance coverage, regardless of whether or not you participate in the plan. This means that if your employer offers health care, you need to obtain a copy of the plan summary.
- Three years-worth of any bank accounts with your name on it. This includes accounts you have with your spouse or partner.
- Three years-worth of any brokerage accounts (stocks, bonds, etc.) or retirement accounts (401k, IRA, pensions, annuities, deferred comp plans, etc). If it’s listed as an asset on your Rule 401 Financial Statement, you need to have statements for it here.
- Copies of any loan applications within the last three (3) years. This means any new mortgage applications, personal loans, auto loans, etc.
- Copies of any financial statement or statement assets prepared by either party within the last three years.
Your lawyer will tell you specifically which items are needed. You may not have to produce all of them based on the type of proceeding you are going through or if there is an agreement recognized by the court. Additionally, if circumstances have a significant change, you may be asked to submit a supplemental disclosure.
If you do not have any of these documents, for whatever reason, you need to contact your legal team and tell them the exact reasons why. They will need to present an argument to the court which details the reasons why the documents were not produced and what is being done about it. Regardless, you will need to assemble a responsive document that outlines your production responses and include it with your disclosure.
Request for Production of Documents
This process will work similarly to the Rule 410 Self Disclosure, except that it will be focused on documents specifically requested by the Opposing Party and/or their Attorney. This is typically where you may be asked to produce a history for things like your credit card statements, a history of your utility payments, etc. While a request for production is not specifically limited to requesting additional financial information, it is something you need to keep in mind.
It will be important to stay on top of your finances throughout your case and to be responsive to your legal team or the court when they ask you to produce these items. Depending on your specific case, you may only need to complete and submit only some types of these documents. It will be important that you work with your legal team to discuss what is required of you and when you need to have these items submitted. Not only do copies need to be submitted to the opposing party and their attorney, but the court may also be entitled to a copy of the documents as well. Additionally, there are additional rules that need to be considered when making certain submissions. For example, your financial statement must be submitted on a certain color of pink paper – using plain white printer paper for an original submitted financial statement may cause the court to reject it. Work with your legal team to make sure that you are covering all the details, and you’ll sail through this part of the process.