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Quick Guide to the Financial Declaration in Family Court

Posted by Jordan W. Peeler | Aug 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

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Some of the most frequent questions we get are “Why does the other side need to know how much money I have in my bank account?” or “What difference does it make how much I have in my retirement account?” These questions are often a byproduct of confusion about the financial disclosure process in general, and the requirement of the Financial Declaration in Family Court, in particular. So, what is a financial declaration, and why do you have to complete one when going through a case in a South Carolina Family Court?

The most important answer is the simplest one: because the Rules of Family Court require it. Rule 20 of the South Carolina Rules of Family Court requires each party to file and serve a current financial declaration “[i]n any domestic relations action in which the financial condition of a party is relevant or is an issue to be considered by the court…” Financial declarations must be filed and served “prior to or at the first hearing, or no later than 45 days after the complaint is served, whichever occurs first.” The Rule even contemplates imposing sanctions for an attorney or party for “willful noncompliance.

What does that mean for you as the client? It means that even though it might be uncomfortable or tedious, a full financial disclosure must be made to the opposing party in any family court action in which your finances are “relevant” or “an issue to be considered by the court.” Generally, those terms are interpreted liberally by the Court. You shouldn't assume that just because your case initially involves only custody modification allegations or a request for a change in visitation, that financial matters won't come up. In most cases, one or both parties will ask the Court to require the other side to pay their attorney fees. That one request will make the financial records of both parties extremely relevant. The general rule of practice is that every time we go to court, we have an updated financial declaration prepared to present to both the Court and the opposing party.

The Financial Declaration form is a court-created form which is intended to be a “snapshot” of your current financial situation. It has multiple benefits. It aids the court in calculating child support and in determining if alimony should be awarded and if so, how much to award. It also aids each party in determining the financial health (or lack thereof) of the other party. The financial declaration lists your gross monthly income, monthly pay deductions, and monthly expenses, along with installment loan payments, personal property, and real estate assets. Keeping the financial declaration up to date not only gives the court and the parties the “lay of the land” of one another's finances, but it also keeps you in compliance with the Rules of Family Court. Remember, the financial declaration must be kept current at all times during the case. That means that even if you fill out a financial declaration before your first hearing, you will need to update it again before the final hearing.

Full “disclosure”: we know that providing and discussing finances is uncomfortable, especially when you are going through a separation or divorce. But, as with most aspects of your case, full disclosure and discussion are necessary to obtain the best results possible in the most efficient manner we can. The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over two decades, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. We are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

About the Author

Jordan W. Peeler

Jordan W. Peeler is a family law practitioner in Spartanburg, South Carolina, handling both simple and complex family law cases, including divorce, property division, support, child custody, and visitation. Jordan was born and raised in Gaffney, South Carolina, and lived in Charleston, Boston, and Atlanta before returning to the Upstate to begin his practice of law. In 2002, Jordan received a B.A. in English from Clemson University. Following his graduation from Clemson, he considered following a path to priesthood in the Episcopal Church before deciding law was his chosen profession. He earned his J.D. in 2015 from the University of Georgia School of Law, which included a visiting year at the Charleston School of Law. After being sworn in as a member of the South Carolina Bar, Jordan joined our firm in the summer of 2016. While studying for the Bar Exam, he had an opportunity to clerk in a family law firm in Charleston, South Carolina. That position, along with his experiences at our firm, have allowed him to see the struggles clients face when they first become involved in family law litigation. He has developed an understanding of the stress and pain broken relationships can cause, as well as the fears clients have about facing an uncertain future. Because of these experiences, Jordan firmly believes that whether we are able to resolve our clients' cases through settlement, mediation or litigation, our goals are to help send out clients into the next chapter of life with fewer burdens and more peace of mind. This is what makes being a lawyer worthwhile for him. Jordan is an active member of the American Bar Association, the South Carolina Bar, and the Spartanburg County Bar Association. Within the South Carolina Bar, he is a Young Lawyers Division Diversity Committee Member and he looks forward to becoming more involved in several professional organizations as his career continues and develops. Jordan lives in Laurens, South Carolina, with his partner, Nathan, and their corgi, Ellie. He loves to watch sports, and his favorite teams are Clemson football (go Tigers!) and UNC basketball. His bucket list includes one day meeting Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the most unusual thing you'll find in his office is a Star Wars figurine from his childhood that has been on every desk he's ever had. Bar Admissions South Carolina (2016) Professional Associations & Memberships American Bar Association (Section of Family Law, Young Lawyers Division) South Carolina Bar (Family Law Section, Young Lawyers Division, YLD Diversity Committee) Spartanburg County Bar Association American Association for Justice South Carolina Association for Justice Community Involvement Main Street Laurens Upstate Forever IPTAY Clemson Alumni Society for Equality First Presbyterian Church, Laurens, South Carolina

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