Financial Discovery in Divorce Litigation
In every divorce case that moves through the court system, the parties to the divorce must submit certain minimum mandatory financial discovery documentation either to the court or to the opposing party or their divorce attorney. The purpose of this exchange of discovery is to ensure that everybody is being honest about their income, their assets, and their liabilities as these are all issues to be handled inside the divorce action and can be verified by the divorce attorneys.
The most common piece of financial divorce discovery is called the financial affidavit. The financial affidavit is a multipage document that collects detailed information regarding a person’s income, withholdings from pay, monthly expenses, assets, liabilities, and contingent assets.
What Is A Financial Affidavit and Why Does My Divorce Attorney Want One?
The financial affidavit is probably the single most important piece of financial discovery that can be collected in the divorce action by the lawyers. This is because the financial affidavit is essentially an affidavit of the author’s exact financial situation at that point in time.
This begins with the income section. The opening section of the financial affidavit will identify a person’s employer, their job position, and their income. The income section of the financial affidavit also provides available checkboxes for all sorts of incomes ranging from public assistance to alimony from a prior marriage. It is very important for the lawyer in the divorce to be aware of every single source of income or the opposing party especially in cases that involve child support and spousal support.
The next section of the affidavit requires that the party to the case disclose what all the withholdings are from their paycheck. These withholdings can include Social Security withholdings, state and federal taxes, Medicare withholding, as well as any cost of that person’s health insurance that is paid from their income. Though this information is not glamorous, it is also very important for the attorney to include into any financial summary to be presented in court, or to be included in child support guideline calculations.
The next portion of the financial affidavit will list out all a person’s monthly expenses in detail. These expenses will include rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, meals outside the home, repairs on the home, auto expenses, child-related expenses, personal grooming, religious activities, payment to creditors, and other miscellaneous monthly expenses. This section is extremely relevant in divorce cases that involve claims for alimony and are beneficial in helping lawyers pinpoint whether a person has additional sources of income that they are trying to conceal.
The remainder of the affidavit requires people to list out all their assets and all their liabilities. Since in divorce litigation distribution of assets and liabilities is a foundational issue of the case, the asset and liability section of the financial affidavit is of the utmost importance.
Here Is A List of Other Financial Discovery Needed in Divorce Cases
In addition to completing a financial affidavit, a party to a divorce case will usually also need to provide a laundry list of other financial documents that will be compared to the data provided in the financial affidavit to ensure that person is being honest about the information provided in the affidavit.
These other documents include three years of tax returns, three months of pay stubs, three months of personal checking account statements, 12 months of personal savings account statements, the most recent three months of credit card statements, a copy of a deed to any real estate owned within the last three years, copy of any residential lease, and a copy of that person’s health insurance card and a copy of the health insurance card of any minor child who is also involved in the divorce case.
The list above summarizes the typical items required in order to satisfy the minimum mandatory discovery requirements in a divorce case. Of course, where one or both of the parties to the divorce action are self-employed business owners then there is an even longer list of financial documentation that must be requested and turned over in order to allow the lawyers to pinpoint an accurate personal income for the self-employed individual.
Because of the highly complex nature of financial discovery in divorce litigation, it is always recommended that you utilize the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney in Orlando Florida. It is extremely common for divorce advocates to be approached by individuals who have attempted to represent themselves but only created bigger problems in the case. The issue here is that if someone attempts to represent themselves and creates problems in their case going and hiring a lawyer later is not always going to solve the problem created by the self-represented litigants who did not understand the discovery requirements.
Sean Smallwood is an Orlando divorce attorney for the law firm Sean Smallwood, Orlando Divorce & Family Law P.A. where he represents clients in all areas of family law and divorce. 100% of the practice is devoted to family law. As an attorney in Orlando, he has helped many families with a wide variety of family law cases including Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and many other issues.