One of the very first steps in any divorce proceeding is the submission of the marital finances through a form known as the Case Information Statement (CIS). This form is the precursor to the discovery process, during which spouses exchange any and all documents pertaining to their income, assets and liabilities. Many couples view the CIS as an exhausting chore, but it's actually the most important aspect of a fair and accurate divorce settlement for both parties. It's also a powerful tool for drawing your attention to financial red flags such as fraud and hidden assets. While every couple's financial situation is different, there are some basic tips that everyone should follow when completing a CIS.
- Do disclose all your income, assets and liabilities.
Considering the already overwhelming nature of a CIS, it's tempting to leave out a few
things here and there, especially unearned income and miscellaneous expenses. Leaving things out, however, can backfire should the court have any questions or need further clarification. While a mistake may seem minor to you, the court may interpret it as a deliberate manipulation, or at the very least, a failure to take things seriously. In addition, an accurate CIS is the only way to receive the most equitable settlement in areas such as alimony and child support.
- Do not list information that can't be backed up by supporting documents.
Keep in mind that you will need to submit financial documents in the form of pay stubs, account statements, tax returns, etc. While many families have complicated spending habits and expenses that exceed their claimed income, the discrepancy should be explainable via information from the supporting documents.
- Do not overinflate your expenses.
Overinflating your monthly expenses is another surefire way to lose credibility with the court. It's understandable that your expenses may fluctuate from month-to-month, but deliberately inflating expenses to give yourself an advantage can snowball into a series of costly and time consuming consequences. You should, of course, be honest about high expenses if you are living beyond your means. Many families are forced to do so from job loss, disability, upside down mortgages or a number of other reasons. The important thing is that you can back up your claims with physical documentation.
- Do work with an attorney to ensure that your CIS is complete, accurate and drafted in an acceptable manner.
Although assistance by an experienced family law attorney is highly recommended, you should attempt to complete as much of the form as possible on your own. Having your attorney do the entire form from start to finish can be quite expensive, depending on the number and types of assets. You should, however, work with an attorney to make sure that your form is free of mistakes, omissions or unexplained inconsistencies. If you need assistance with your Case Information Statement, or have questions about your divorce rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.