It sounds simple enough, Financial Declaration (sometimes referred to as a Financial Affidavit). It's something that each party in most Family Court cases must complete, even in cases that may seem to be “uncontested”. The document details the typical financial factors that play a role in every marriage: how much you earn, how much you spend, how much you owe and what you own. The affidavit provides the court with a snapshot of your financial picture.
Though it seems straightforward, many people discover the document is more complicated than they anticipated. Determining accurate and update figures for everything can be an arduous process. The document is also crucially important as it serves as the basis for the divorce settlement agreement, child support and alimony. Those not involved in the family finances prior to the divorce can have an especially rough time, as estimating is not wise given how important the document can be.
Here are four key points about Financial Declarations:
1. Your divorce attorney will review only for glaring mistakes
Although your divorce attorneys will provide you with the proper forms and fundamental guidance, don't expect them to know your finances better than you. They will certainly double check and look for obvious errors. Unless a listed expense doesn't seem right don't expect small differences to be noticed by people unfamiliar with your spending habits.
2. The little details often make a big difference
Sorting through years of bills at an extreme level of detail can be a grueling process but it's very important for understanding your present state of affairs. No matter how tiresome resist the urge to estimate. When people guess they can often be wrong – sometimes very wrong. The time and expense necessary to correct these mistakes can be significant and should be avoided at all costs.
3. A Financial Declaration must be executed before a notary public
When you file a Financial Declaration you must swear under oath that the information you provided is true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief. This means that neither party can “forget” to mention an account or fudge the balance of a credit card. Anyone who intentionally provides false information on a Financial Declaration is committing perjury and could face serious legal action, including being held in contempt of court and facing additional sanctions, including possible criminal charges.
4. Your Financial Declaration can be revised
If your financial circumstances change, you can and should update your Financial Declaration, even after it's already been filed with the Court. In fact, you are required to file a current Financial Declaration at almost all hearings in Family Court.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of a child custody, separation, or divorce issue, you need the help of an experienced South Carolina family law attorney to guide you through the difficult process.
Source: “The Five Key Points Divorcing Women Need to Know About Financial Affidavits,” by Jeff Landers, published at Forbes.com.