The Financial Affidavit is a very important document. It will be used regardless of whether you proceed with a separation agreement, mediation agreement, or through the court system. It is a statement of your financial expenses on the date of separation and your current financial expenses and sets it out on a monthly basis. Often, it is a long-form, and it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This information can be used to help you fill out any financial form, but it specifically reflects the Harris County, Texas Financial Affidavit. Regardless of the form you use, it is important that you take the time to fill it out as accurately as possible.
How To Get Started
1. Before you begin the affidavit, gather as much information as you can including;
- Check registers for the past 2 years
- Mortage or rent statements
- Tax information
- Credit card statements for at least the past 12 months
- Utility bills for each of the past 12 to 24 month
- Statements for debts paid monthly
- Copies of funds automatically withdrawn from your account
- Daycare expenses, summer camp expenses
- A printout from your doctors and pharmacies showing expenses for the past 12 to 24 months
- Any computer records such as Quicken or Bank on Line program
2. Sit down in a place where you can spread out and refer to the documents you have and where you won’t be interrupted and place the documents into the categories on the affidavit. Make a list of what the credit card purchases were for (gas, clothes, food, etc).
3. Have a calculator next to you.
4. If you do not understand the form or would like some assistance with filling it out, call your attorney’s office and make an appointment to meet with the paralegal. Make sure you have all your documents available. If you do not have documents available for any category, you will have to use your best estimate, based on your good faith belief on the actual costs.
5. Some of your expenses, such as gifts, or child care, may be higher at one time of the year (such as Christmas or Hanukkah, or daily summer camp). You should add up the total spent over the course of the year and divide this number by 12.
Categories of Expenses
1. Regular Recurring Expenses – should not be broken down into amount used by each household member unless some of the expenses are for a person not a party to the action or child for whom a duty of support is not owed. In that case, the amount should be adjusted for the percentage falling on the other party (if there are two people, cut the rent in half, if you have two children and there is one other person in the home, you plus the children would claim 75% of the expense)
2. Individual Monthly Expenses – The individual expenses’ category has a comprehensive list of enumerated classifications, and also includes the “catchall” other category, as well as columns for individual monthly expenses for any child(ren). While some categories are obvious, such as how much do you spend on clothing for yourself, how much for the children, some are less obvious such as “vacation” and “entertainment.” In these categories determine what amount of your entertainment is done just for you (such as going out socially) how much is done just for the children (such as sports activities) and how much is for a family event (such as going to a movie together or going to the beach) and distribute the cost proportionately to each person.
3. Debts – The last category on the Financial Affidavit form requests a list of dates of separation and present debts. Be sure to include all debts, even if your spouse is currently paying it, and make a note that you are not currently paying this debt. Please, also, note if a debt has been discharged in bankruptcy or written off or has been rolled over to another card or into another debt. Debts include Real Estate (Mortgage), Vehicles(s) Debts, Loans, Credit Cards, Taxes, Judgments, Attorney Fees, and Other. Please provide a written statement of the date of separation debt and present debt.
What Will the Court or Opposing Party Do with this Information?
The court will try to reduce these expenses to a monthly flow of financial information, comparing the monthly needs of you and the other party and any changes that have occurred since the date of separation. The basic formula for determining cash flow is income minus expenses, taking into account any assets, which may not be income-producing, but will incur a liability to a party nonetheless. In order to be able to prove these expenses, you must provide documentation including the expenses for the last twelve months. While a financial award is based on the standard of living of the parties for the last few years of the marriage, it is often not possible to maintain that standard. Regardless of whether you expect to pay or receive support, you will need to be able to show your expenses for several different times including:
- the standard during the last year of the marriage, based on actual receipts;
- the expenses as of the date you will proceed to court, based on actual after separation expenses; and
- a good faith estimate on projected expenses (for instance the party is staying with parents until there is a certainty as to the amount of alimony to be awarded, or until the house sells, or some other factor).
One Final Word
You should be as realistic and complete as possible. If you are too extreme in setting expenses, the court will tend to disbelieve the entire affidavit. While most people live a bit beyond their means, a disproportionately large budget not supported by either an explanation or a correspondingly large amount of debt is suspect.
Do your best to be accurate. After you have the information, filling out the form should not be a long process. If you find it overwhelming or otherwise find you do not have the time to go through the information and complete the form, or if you have any questions or need assistance, our office staff is more than willing to sit down with you to complete this information.