Are you getting divorced in Illinois and have questions about completing a financial affidavit? If so, you’re not alone. As a divorce lawyer in Chicago and surrounding suburbs, I know questions about financial affidavits are common. That’s why you should read this FAQ about financial affidavits in Illinois divorce.
What is a financial affidavit?
A financial affidavit is a document where a party to a divorce sums up their income, expenses, assets, and debts.
Why is a financial affidavit required?
A financial affidavit is required for two primary reasons.
- The law: The courts of each county have what are called “Local Rules.” See below for links to various court’s local rules about financial affidavits:
- Judges want to see it: If you are involved in an uncontested divorce in Illinois, you may not want to go through the hassle of completing a financial affidavit. While it is true that many people successfully complete an uncontested divorce without completing a financial affidavit, some don’t. In other words, sometimes people might go to court expecting their case to be finalize, only to be denied because a judge wants the parties to exchange financial affidavits.
If your lawyer tells you to fill out a financial affidavit, you should do it. If you do not, your life could be a little bit harder (in an uncontested divorce), to a lot harder (in a hotly litigated divorce). Your lawyer is probably not trying to make your life worse by asking you to complete a financial affidavit. Instead, your lawyer is probably trying to help you achieve your goals. So when you hire someone to help you with something, it’s a good idea to take instructions geared towards that end.
Can someone lie on a financial affidavit?
Clients often ask me, “Can my spouse lie on the financial affidavit?”
The answer? Yes, of course your spouse can lie on a financial affidavit.
But you shouldn’t. And here’s why.
#1: Lying is “frowned upon”
First of all, I’m pretty sure you know that people are generally not supposed to lie. Further, you probably also know that truthfulness is certainly expected in court proceedings. In fact, people lying in court proceeding can be charged with the crime of perjury, be ordered to pay the other party’s attorney fees, and can face other consequences.
If you don’t believe me, believe what the Illinois Supreme Court wrote on the official financial affidavit form:
“If you intentionally or recklessly enter inaccurate or misleading information on this form, you may face significant penalties and sanctions, including costs and attorney’s fees.”Illinois Supreme Court, on its financial affidavit form
#2: Lying can be like a gift to the other party
Imagine that you are getting divorced, and you take time and effort to complete your financial affidavit truthfully. It’s annoying, but you do it anyway, because it’s required.
Then, your lawyer sends you your spouse’s financial affidavit which was just sent from your spouse’s lawyer. You get it, you read and, and you are mad as heck – there are lies all over the place!
Seeing lies in a court proceeding can be infuriating. But if your spouse lies on a financial affidavit, those lies can be like a gift to you.
To understanding why your spouse’s lies can be a gift to you, let me explain this by examining the difference between a frequent liar, and a good liar.
Good liars know to lie when they have a low likelihood of getting caught. Frankly, most people are not good liars.
Most people are frequent liars. They might lie often, but they lie even when there is a high probability of getting caught. Frequent liars are not used to people really investigating their lies. And often, they are not very experienced in dealing with legal matters in court.
Frequent liars often lie on financial affidavits. But what they often don’t realize is how easy it is for them to get caught. As an Illinois divorce lawyer, I know that financial affidavits are really just the first step in the process of gathering financial evidence.
So when the other party in one of my cases lies on a financial affidavit, I can investigate those lies by examining that person’s tax returns, tax forms, pay stubs, and bank records (among other items). If you want to know a bit more about this, check out this article I wrote about financial discovery and evidence gathering in an Illinois divorce, and this article about gathering evidence.
If I obtain evidence that the other party in a case lied on a financial affidavit, I can use that evidence to try to destroy the other person’s credibility. If your spouse loses credibility with the court, that’s going to be very good for you.
So in a way, your spouse’s lies on a financial affidavit are like giving you a gift that allows you to destroy their credibility.
How do I fill out my financial affidavit?
Filling out a financial affidavit can seem like a pain. It is. But it is a necessary pain because it is required, and it will help move your case forward.
If you have a lawyer, your lawyer should send you a blank financial affidavit to complete. But you can click here for a copy of the blank financial affidavit.
The problem with that version of the financial affidavit is that one can only fill in the blanks provided. So if you want to make other notes for the sake of clarity, your lawyer cannot do that using the version just supplied. That’s why I provide my clients an “unlocked” version of the PDF so that we an make notes for the sake of clarity and honesty.
You will notice there are little boxes on the left side of the financial affidavit. Those are tips for filling out the form.
Here are some of my tips:
- Income: Include all sources
- Debt: Debt can vary, but averages can be used
- Expenses: This also can vary, and averages can also be used here. If there is as big expense in June of every year (like a kid’s camp), average that into a monthly cost
I like to have my clients take a crack and completing the affidavit on their own, then to provide it to me for review. I might ask them to additional information. What I don’t want my clients to do is spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about exactly the right number to record; its better to do a draft than to discuss it with an attorney. The financial affidavit can be confusing, so discussing it with an attorney can help.
What if I make mistakes on my financial affidavit?
People sometimes make mistakes on financial affidavits. If you make a mistake on a financial affidavit, you can correct it. In fact, the Court requires you to make corrections because you are not supposed to mislead the other party.
If my client accidentally includes some inaccurate information on a financial affidavit, I might advise them to quickly correct it. Everybody makes mistakes, and if you correct it, the other party should not be hurt – and therefore, your credibility should still be in tact.
What if my attorney isn’t explaining this?
Suppose your attorney told you to complete a financial affidavit, then you asked questions about it, and you still feel like you have no clue what’s going on with it.
In other words, if you have learned more about divorce financial affidavits from reading this FAQ than you have from your own attorney, then you need to hire a new attorney. To know more about firing your attorney, check out this article.
I have to be honest with you. Sometimes clients are really nervous, and concerned about the wrong things. But sometimes, the fit between an attorney and client isn’t great. And if you are in that situation, then you should seek a new attorney before your case progresses too far.