Top 5 tips for completing your Financial Affidavit
Most people find the process of completing their Financial Affidavit daunting. If you follow a few simple procedures, the result will be a less frustrating experience and a disclosure that fosters settlement.
1. Collect your records
Before you begin inserting information into the Financial Affidavit, collect your documents that reflect your income and expense receipts. Also, locate your most recent statements for all accounts (retirement and investment as well as debts).
2. Calculate income and expenses — create average monthly figures
After collecting your documents, look at your income receipts. Under Illinois law, income is a broadly defined term that includes not only wages but certain retirement distributions and gifts. Unless maintenance or child support received are from a separate case, do not include them in your income calculations. I generally recommend using a year’s worth of data when possible. If you are in the middle of the year, use five to six months’ worth. Calculate the average and use the average number as the income and deductions from income figures. Then, do the same with all expenses. I also explain how I derived the income and expense figures in the Additional Information Page to the Affidavit. I generally recommend that if you are not paying an expense or don’t have proof of payments, it is best not to list that expense.
3. List all assets
Review bank (checking and savings), brokerage, retirement and other account statements. Use the most current statement values available when disclosing your assets in the Affidavit. When dealing with real estate, the best source of value evidence is an MAI (Member Appraisal Institute) appraisal. When that is not available, use Zillow or similar valuation data. Just make sure you disclose the source of the data in the Additional Information Page. If you received property from inheritance or gift, include those assets as well but make sure you identify the assets as non-marital.
4. List all debts
Mortgages, credit card balances, student loans, personal loans and other debts should all be listed. Use the most recent statement balances. Average monthly payments on all installment accounts (again, using 5-6 months of data) should be calculated and inserted.
5. Make sure the monthly income and expenses balance
A common mistake many lawyers and parties make in completing the Affidavit is listing expenses that far exceed monthly income. Unless monthly expenses are being paid by credit cards, loans or savings withdrawals (and proof is available), the expense totals will likely be challenged by the other lawyer and discounted by the court.