By: Tom Weschler Jr., Esquire
Many people hate filing out the Long Form Financial Statement because it takes a lot of effort to fill it out property. But the Long Form Financial Statement is very important because the court relies on this form to determine how much alimony and child support to award and whether to award attorney’s fees.
Pursuant to Maryland Rule 9-202, in any matter where an initial request for spousal support or a request to modify spousal support is made both parties are required to file a Long Form Financial Statement in the form as set out in Maryland Rule 9-203(a). In any matter where child support is initially requested or a request to modify child support has been sought by either party and the combined incomes of the parties exceed $15,000 per month, both parties are required to file a Long Form Financial Statement in the form as set out in Maryland Rule 9-203(a). In addition, failure to file the appropriate financial statement at the required time may result in your case being dismissed, having the relief you are requesting denied or having the evidence and testimony you wish to present at your hearing severely limited.
The Long Form Financial Statement is based on monthly income and expenses. When you are completing your Long Form Financial Statement, it is critical that you are as accurate as possible when outlining your monthly expenses. Therefore, you should gather as much documentation to support your financial figures as possible before completing the financial statement and to provide back up support for those stated amounts. These supportive documents may include, but should not be limited to mortgage statements, utility bills, bank statements, copies of checks and credit card statements. In addition, under the penalties of perjury, you will be signing the financial statement indicating that the figures are true and accurate to the best of your personal knowledge and belief so do not just guess on these figures.
Failure to accurately complete your financial statement may result in you not receiving the relief you are requesting. In addition, it may leave you vulnerable to attack by the opposing side during cross examination. For example, if you state that you spend $400 a month on gas and $800 a month on food but your supportive documents show that you actually spend substantially less than that, during cross examination, the opposing side will have an opportunity to show that your financial statement (which was filed under the penalties of perjury) is full of erroneous figures, they will argue that you are not a credible person and will argue to the Judge that your testimony should not be believed for any part of your case and that the Court should deny all the relief you are seeking.
In addition, when completing your financial statement in cases involving a request for both alimony and child support, it is important that you speak with your attorney and consider how to properly allocate certain expenses between expenses for you versus expenses for your child(ren). For example, if you have a strong case for alimony and your child(ren) is nearing the age of majority, you may want to consider allocating more expenses for you than for the children. In the alternative if your child(ren) is young, you may wish to allocate more expenses for the child(ren) as alimony may be considered income and therefore taxable; however, child support is not included as income for tax purposes.
A Long Form Financial Statement is a key document which the Court relies on when determining child support and alimony and is often used by the court to determine whether a party should be awarded attorney’s fees. A well prepared accurate Long Form Financial Statement goes a long way to show the Court whether or not a party’s testimony is credible.
At Haspel and McLeod, P.C., we understand how important it is that we work with our clients to make sure their financial statement is accurate and that the expenses are properly allocated to help our clients obtain the best possible outcome.