Show me a couple with marital problems and I'll show you a couple with financial problems.

Despite exceptions, this is frequently true. People do not fight over divorce; people fight over matters incidental to the divorce such as child custody, child support, division of property, and attorney's fees. If two people have financial problems living together, those problems increase with separation, divorce, and the costs of separate households. After more than 50 years of practice, I still do not understand how the payor spouse can afford support nor do I understand how the payee spouse survives on so little. Part of my task as your lawyer is to insure you can survive financially once the divorce is final. A common mistake of clients, particularly wives, is underestimating financial needs. When reality registers, usually after the decree is final, it is too late to correct that underestimate. A similar mistake, particularly by husbands who feel guilty, is overestimating ability and willingness to pay child support and alimony. The Family Court Rules require that each party file a financial declaration of income, expenses, debts, and assets. The trial judge and your spouse's attorney will have your financial declaration. We will also have your spouse's financial declaration. The financial declaration is the most important document in family court. Most lawyers and litigants pay insufficient attention to the financial declaration. Litigants resist serious and thorough work on their financial declarations. Lawyers too often delegate the financial declaration to a legal assistant without adequate supervision. I delegate the financial declaration first to the client and then to a legal assistant, but accept the ultimate responsibility for our clients’ financial declarations. We offer a Financial Declaration Workbook for help in completing your financial declaration.



In setting support, the judge is trying to balance the needs of the spouse requiring support with the ability of the paying spouse to provide support. Many judges rely heavily on the financial declarations of the parties, particularly when the financial declaration seems accurate. Inaccurate financial declarations create hazards. If a spouse's income is understated or expenses are overstated then the judge may not believe that spouse on other issues. Likewise, if income is overstated or expenses are understated, the judge may order one spouse to pay more than he or she can afford or award the other spouse less than he or she needs. Inaccurate financial declarations may also make it easy for the other party to show later a "change of circumstances" supporting a modification of the original order setting support.