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Category: Family Law

Why Disclosure is the Foundation of Divorce Proceedings

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Written by Olivia St. Clair Long, JD on 11.17.20

When it comes to divorce, honesty is not only the best policy, it’s the law. Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage mandates that parties disclose information about their income, expenses, and other basic financial information. This step takes place at the beginning of divorce proceedings when both parties fill out and file a document called a Financial Affidavit. This document is the foundation on which the case then proceeds, helping the parties come to agreement about how the divorcing couple’s assets will be divided and informing important decisions about child support and maintenance.

The Financial Affidavit includes identifying personal information, income (including income from wages and from investments or other non-wage sources of income), expenses, and tangible assets, such as real estate or cars. You also must include financial liabilities, or obligations, that must be met, such as federal and state income taxes, social security and Medicare taxes, payments to retirement savings plan, and health insurance premiums that may be directly deducted from your paycheck. The goal of a correctly completed Financial Affidavit is to provide both your attorney and the opposing party and their counsel, as well as the Court, an accurate picture of your finances so that resources may be equitably divided.

When it comes to your expenses, you need to be as thorough as possible. Include fixed monthly expenses such as rent or a mortgage payment, car payment or other transportation costs (insurance, gas, a Metra pass), typical utility bills and grocery expenses, extracurricular activities for the kids, school clothes and shoes, any tuition payments; everything that goes into paying your monthly bills and keeping your household running. When it comes to assets, list everything you have of material value, including property, vehicles, a business you own or co-own, life insurance policies, and personal property such as jewelry, art, electronics, valuable collections (baseball cards, stamps), or antique furniture.

Once you have exchanged Financial Affidavits with your spouse, your attorneys will use this information to help you negotiate the division of the property and to equitably allocate resources to the ongoing task of caring for your children and also for maintaining now two households instead of one. It is important to recognize that any attempts to obscure your true financial picture will prolong the divorce process and cause larger legal fees and could expose you to sanction from the Court. The simple fact of divorce is that you are splitting one household into two, and thus adjustments will have to be made.

Clearly, filling out a complete Financial Affidavit is a crucial step in the divorce process, and one that will take time and effort to complete properly. Our firm has an MBA Financial Analyst on staff who helps our clients fill out their own Financial Affidavits; even more importantly perhaps, she will thoroughly review the financial information provided by the opposing party to ensure that we are able to secure an equitable settlement for you and your children.

Occasionally, parties will come to us saying that they prefer to keep some information private and *not* share everything with their spouse; even if both parties say this is something they wish for and agree on, remember that this disclosure is legally required by Illinois law. And as much as you may believe that you’d rather protect certain information and are ok with your spouse doing the same; besides being unlawful, you will never be fully sure that you have reached the most appropriate settlement agreement without basing those decisions on a complete and honest financial review.

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