Most family law cases in Massachusetts require that both parties complete a Financial Statement. The Financial Statement details all of your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. It is an extremely important document as the court may rely upon it to make financial determinations, such as child support, alimony, and property division. The following are a few tips on how to complete your Financial Statement.
There are two types of financial forms, which one you should fill out depends upon your income. The first type, known as the “Short Form”, is used if your gross income is less than $75,000 per year. The second form, known as the “Long Form”, is used if your gross income is $75,000 per year or more.
If you are self-employed, you will also have to complete “Schedule A” which details all of your business income and expenses. If you own income producing property, you will need to complete “Schedule B”, which records all of the rental income you received and all of the expenses associated with your rental property.
Your Financial Statement will require a lot of detailed information. It is likely that you will have to review your paystubs, bills, tax returns, and other financial documents. Not everyone has all of the required information on hand, and you may have to take additional steps to obtain the information. Depending on your circumstances, you may also have to consult with experts. For example, if you do not know the value of some of your property, you may need to have it appraised.
People are often surprised by how long it takes to gather all of the necessary information and precisely complete the forms. You should begin the process early in your case because there are specific deadlines for when your Financial Statement must be presented to the other party and to the court. If you are rushing to meet a deadline, it increases the risk that you will make a mistake.
The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court requires all Financial Statements be printed on pink paper. This is because your Financial Statement is kept separate from your regular court file to protect your personal financial information. The pink color allows court staff to easily identify which documents are Financial Statements, so that they may be kept in the appropriate place.
The financial forms require that you input weekly data. In certain situations this will require you to complete some mathematical calculations to arrive at the correct numbers. For example, your monthly mortgage or rent payment will have to be converted to a weekly figure. This is achieved by multiplying the monthly amount by 12 to arrive at a yearly amount, then dividing the yearly amount by 52 to reach the weekly cost. This weekly cost is the number that you should put on your Financial Statement.
Completing your Financial Statement without the assistance of a lawyer can feel overwhelming. The forms can be difficult to understand if you do not regularly work with them. They require a lot of information and it is easy to make a mistake – whether it is recording information in the wrong place, mathematical errors, or failing to include all necessary information.
Do not underestimate the importance of an accurate Financial Statement. When you sign your Financial Statement, you are swearing under oath that all of the information you provided is complete and correct. Even an innocent mistake could hurt your case and your credibility before the judge. It is best to avoid risks and work with an attorney. If you have any questions about how to complete your Financial Statement, consult with an attorney licensed in your state.