When a couple files for divorce in Illinois, within two days both parties must submit a sworn “financial affidavit” to the Court. If that same couple moved to Georgia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, New York, Colorado, etc…the State would also require them to file a sworn Financial Affidavit.
This is unfortunately not the case in Michigan, although the state boasts some of the most financially astute divorce attorneys in the country. This outdated policy puts Michigan couples, their attorneys and judges at a distinct disadvantage.
What information is on the Financial Affidavit?
This critical document details the party’s income (including taxes and deductions), a snapshot of current monthly expenses and a list of assets and liabilities. Courts use it to set Temporary Support as well as Child support and Spousal Support.
So, how do Michigan courts determine the proper amount of Child Support without a Financial Affidavit?
Michigan Child Support Guidelines take into consideration the income of the parties, the number of minor children and allowable deductions. The Guidelines don’t take into consideration either party’s household, transportation, personal or medical expenses. They also don’t factor in the minor children’s expenses.
Surely, if a case involves a child with special needs who has been receiving support at a cost to the parents, that should be considered in determining Child Support. Similarly, if the payor-spouse agrees to pay extraordinary housing costs to maintain the children in the family home, that impacts the amount of income left over for Child Support.
Without using a Financial Affidavit, the Court and the attorneys are making decisions in the dark.
The use of financial disclosures would also streamline and simplify the Discovery process for both sides. Armed with a list of assets and liabilities, Discovery can be more focused on the particulars rather than turn into a scavenger hunt of sorts. For example, rather than subpoena employers for retirement account information, attorneys can request Model QDROs and written QDRO plan procedures. Attorneys would also understand early in the case if the other side was making a claim for separate property as that would be disclosed as well.
What can Michigan attorneys do to raise the bar?
Until Michigan follows the example set by the vast majority of other states, Michigan attorneys can modify their practice to incorporate the use of Financial Affidavits. Many attorneys have created their own internal Excel spreadsheets to track client assets, yet this process is tedious and can be difficult to match up against the opposing counsel’s own spreadsheet.
Recently, I started working with Dan Caine, the developer of Family Law Software to incorporate Michigan Child Support Guidelines into this valuable financial tool widely used by attorneys across the country—we want to be part of the solution to raise the bar. Copy the link below into your browser to download a free two-week trial of Family Law Software.
Attorneys (or their clients) can use this simple tool to enter income, expenses and asset/liability information and then generate a Financial Affidavit. It can also be used to run Michigan Child Support Guidelines, opening up the “black box” to reveal the actual calculation for support and print Court forms. Ever want to determine the amount of spousal support needed, cost of spousal support after taxes and the best exemptions for each party? This software can accomplish that as well.
If you have any questions or want to schedule an online demo, contact our office at 248-354-0495.