By Anthony C. Adamopoulos
In my over 25 years of helping people facing divorce, I have seen, in almost every divorce, a reoccurring client decision that results in wasting hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of dollars.
What is that decision? The decision not to read and follow the court’s instructions on how to complete the court’s Financial Statement.
In all divorce cases, the most important document is the Probate and Family Court Financial Statement.
In an “uncontested” divorce, the judge reads the Financial Statement to help her or him decide if she or he will approve the parties’ Separation Agreement. I have seen judges, or their clerks, refuse to let uncontested divorce cases be approved because Financial Statements did not conform to the court’s instructions.
In contested cases, the Financial Statement helps the judge determine many issues, for example, the standard of living of a party, the needs of a party, and the honesty of a party.
In my office, and the offices of many attorneys I know, we do not complete client Financial Statements. No client of mine can ever say, “I do not know where that number came from, my attorney completed the Financial Statement.” Clients must complete their own Financial Statements.
The Probate and Family Court Instructions for Financial Statements can be found by going to my web site DivorcingOptions.com, then to RESOURCES, then to Long Form Instructions or Short Form Instructions.
There are about 13 to 15 paragraphs of instruction.
The instructions for both forms are accompanied by a self-calculating form for the user’s convenience.
Here is a list of the most ignored instructions:
- Fill in your name and address;
- Answer every question;
- If an answer to a question is 0 or none, enter 0 or none;
- All income and expenses are to be reported in weekly amounts with monthly figures being divided by 4.3;
- List all assets and present value.
Since the Family Court wants its instructions followed, my paralegal or I must point out what needs to be changed, in a client’s draft Statement, to comply with the court’s instructions.
Because clients are paying for time, the amount of errors and the amount of resistance (Yes, some clients resist the court’s instructions under the misbelief that the court will make an exception in their case.) can result in legal fees that are avoidable.
The take away:
The court’s instructions are few and clear. Taking the time to follow them can save you $$$$.