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Financial Statements and Financial Disclosure

By Howard Goldstein, Esquire

For most people, a divorce is the largest financial transaction of their lives. Probably the most important part of the divorce process is providing a financial disclosure to your spouse and making sure you are getting full and complete financial disclosure in return. The following court rules apply to financial disclosure:

Financial Statement-Rule 401 of the Probate Court rules require that each part complete a financial statement. If your income exceeds $75000 per year you are required to complete the Long Form, which is quite detailed. If your income is less than $75000 you can submit the short form, which still takes a fair amount of time to complete. It is likely that you will be required to submit this form several times and each time the financial statement must be updated. The financial statement is signed under the pains and penalties of perjury. Both of these financial statement forms are available at: www.hgoldstein.com/forms.htm

Common mistakes on financial statements:
  1. Estimates: If you are estimating any item, you should note that it is an estimate somewhere on the form or in an attached page. Otherwise base your expenses and income on actual figures obtained from careful review of past history.
  2. Valuation: You are asked to value your personal and real property. Do not guess. If you are not certain of the value, make sure you obtain an appraisal or other wise indicate on the financial statement how you arrived at the value. If you are not sure, then you should indicate that on the form or in a footnote. If you are valuing a stock account, or mutual fund, make sure you indicate the date that you are using for the valuation.
  3. Leaving things out: Every account, no matter how small needs to be disclosed. If you leave something out, it could be quite embarrassing.
  4. Pension plans: Often people will leave out pensions they have earned, or not properly calculate the value of the pension.
  5. Collectibles and tangible property: Used furniture has little value, but collectibles like coins, stamps, and memorabilia should be appraised.
Mandatory Rule 410 disclosure:

All parties to a divorce are required to provide financial records like credit card records, bank record, insurance documents, etc. This is mandatory and automatic, although parties in relatively uncontested or simple matters will sometimes agree to waive this disclosure. See the details of Rule 410 disclosure at www.hgoldstein.com/forms/rule410.htm

Interrogatories: Each party to a divorce is entitled to ask detailed written questions to their spouse, and obtain answers in writing. This often is done where there is some question about whether the financial statement or mandatory disclosure is accurate or complete.

Deposition: Each party to a divorce is entitled to ask questions under oath in the presence of a stenographer regarding details of the parties financial circumstances and financial history. Included in the notice of deposition can be detailed lists of documents that are required to be brought to the deposition.

Subpoenas: Subpoenas can be issued to banks, financial institutions, employers, and any other person or institution which has financial records that are relevant to the financial circumstances of the parties to a divorce.

Actuaries: Actuaries are often employed to put a value on pensions and other employment related retirement benefits.

Appraisers: Certified appraisers are often hired to value real estate and any business that is owned by either party in a divorce. Collectibles are also appraised if they have significant value.

Private Investigators: If there are serious questions about someone's truthfulness it is often useful to hire investigators to attempt to verify someone's work habits, lifestyle and other aspects of their personal life which might have an impact on their financial situation.

For additional information on this subject feel free to contact the author.

Howard Goldstein is trained mediator and a partner with the law firm of Rosenberg, Freeman & Goldstein. He has been providing representation in family law and divorce since 1973 and is on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council.

He can be contacted by phone at (617)964-7000 or
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