Financial affidavits appear to be simple on the surface but can be challenging to understand.
Financial affidavits are used in family law cases as sworn statements of a party’s income, assets, expenses and liabilities. Generally speaking, both parties in a Florida divorce are legally required to file and serve a financial affidavit to their soon-to-be ex-spouse.
While financial affidavits are simple to understand in principle, they are difficult to navigate in practice. The nuances and legal complexities surrounding family law financial affidavits are best navigated with the help of a Florida family lawyer.
When Should a Financial Affidavit Be Used?
The literal language of Florida’s Family Law Rules of Procedure mandate that all parties in all marital dissolution proceedings must file financial affidavits, but as a practical matter, case law reveals that courts have significantly moved away from this requirement.
Florida case law reveals that financial affidavits are mandatory in original proceedings, but are not required for simplified dissolutions. Even in the context of original proceedings, financial affidavits are only truly required when one or both parties makes a specific request for financial relief in their pleading.
As such, it is a bit of legal embellishment to suggest that financial affidavits are mandatory for all divorce actions. Typically, however, it is often in a spouse’s best interests to ensure that financial affidavits are filed.
Short Form vs. Long Form Financial Affidavits
When you go to file a financial affidavit, you will find that the state of Florida provides two separate forms for such matters. First, there is the Short Form, which is used by individuals whose gross annual income is less than $50,000.
For parties with a gross annual income of $50,000 or more, the Long Form is the financial affidavit that must be completed. Regardless of whether you are required to complete the Short Form or Long Form, a copy of the form you complete must be served to the other party in the case within 45 days of being served with the petition.
What to Include in a Financial Affidavit
Despite the fact financial affidavits are theoretically required, it is difficult to pin down precisely what must be reported. While income, assets and liabilities are fairly straightforward, expenses are another matter entirely.
No case law has shed light on what expenses must be reported, and as such, even lawyers cannot say for certain. The good news here, however, is that Florida’s child support guidelines rely entirely on income, meaning that expenses rarely become a major point of contention in most family law cases.
As a general rule, simply be as thorough as possible when preparing your financial affidavit. It is important to be personally involved in this process, rather than simply pawn the task off on your lawyer. You have personal accountability for accurately reporting your financial picture, so make sure you can defend everything included in your sworn affidavit.
In your financial affidavit, be honest, fair and take accurate notes for each item of the affidavit. Careful preparation during this process goes a long way toward defending the figures included, which will also help your attorney spot any discrepancies or misleading information in your spouse’s affidavit as well.
If you have questions regarding financial affidavits, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]