March 20, 2020

Avoid the top 5 common mistakes when you do your financial statement

You’re in family court. You have the forms to fill out. One of them is a financial statement. Avoid the common mistakes when filling it in.

One of the very first tasks you will face when starting your file in the Court System is the preparation of your Financial Statement. There are two types in Family Court in Ontario – a Form 13 and a 13.1.

They are two very different forms, let’s take them one at a time.

MISTAKE 1 – USING THE WRONG FORM

Which one do you need?

Form 13

You need a Form 13 if you are making a claim for child or spousal support, responding to a claim for child or spousal support or you are seeking [or responding to] a claim to change support. If you only are only dealing with the issue of child support under the Child Support Guidelines, then you don’t need this form. The bulk of folks who use this form are common law relationships that have separated and have to address support issues only. Do not use this form if you were legally married and have any asset issues yet to settle. It is only for support issues alone.

Form 13.1

If you were married and you have not settled any issues around the house or other assets, you must use this form. Even if you have a support issue as well, still use this form. You can have both assets/debts issues AND support issues with this form. The Form 13 is only if there are no asset/debt issues. The Form 13.1 is also to be used for any other claims like exclusive possession of the home, orders for sale of land, and other issues.

In a Form 13.1, you will be asked to produce what seems to be a great deal of paperwork for 3 different dates (the date of marriage, date of separation and current date). When you first see the form with the list, the first thought is “oh my, I can’t do all that” or “where will I get all that information”. Just remember, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Patience and proper paperwork will help you though.

MISTAKE 2 – NOT READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

If you have a lawyer, they will often provide the client with a list of financial disclosure that the lawyer will require to do the statement. Make sure you read over the list of what is required of you carefully. Quite often people provide too much disclosure (e.g. for the incorrect dates) which makes more work than is necessary. Take a breath. Read the instructions. For a Form 13.1, you need only those three dates (noted above) in the assets section. If your lawyer wants more information later on, he/she will specifically ask for it. If you represent yourself, again, keep to the dates the form is asking you for and carefully read the instructions.

You can save time and heartache for yourself by providing only what is asked for.

MISTAKE 3 – PUT IT OFF

Don’t put it off. It’s daunting. We get that, but when you get the form give it a good read and put it on your to do list or on your calendar so that you won’t forget it is there. The thing to understand is that court is on a time limit. If you are served with a claim and you need to respond, you need to do so within 30 days of being served. If you are heading towards a settlement conference or a motion you have a strict time line to update your financial statement, serve the other party and then get it filed in the court. All of this can slide by quickly by dumping the Form on your “I’ll do it tomorrow” pile.

The Court and the other side can’t start to figure out a solution in earnest until your financial picture is available. It is like trying to eat your dinner without a fork or spoon. You can’t move forward. Like the shoe commercial, “Just do it”.

MISTAKE 4 – FORGET YOU HAVE OTHER AVENUES TO HELP YOU

If you are not in possession of your financial paperwork for whatever reason, don’t forget that your bank or investment person can help you with statements that you need to fill out the form. Take the list in to the bank and show it to the person looking after you, that way there are no mistakes on dates and getting the right values. The same for your investment person. The same for a real estate appraiser and a car appraiser. They are there to assist you. The same thing applies to life insurance agents. Just ask, “If I don’t know this information, who would?”, then ask them.

Also, make sure you put in all the information. Don’t keep any financial disclosure hidden. You may have concerns about revealing assets to your partner and don’t want to produce the information, but you must reveal them to the court. We usually recommend partially blocking your bank account numbers, but you have to include all the other details and the amounts. It does not look good for you or your position if the account or investment is revealed by the other party, usually at an inappropriate time (such as in front of the Judge when you are caught off guard). Hiding things is severely frowned upon. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot.

MISTAKE 5 – the Expenses Sections

Part 2 on both forms are the expenses. We know part 1 is the income, which tends to be straight forward, but often folks trip up on the next part, your monthly expenses.

If you are making a claim for spousal support, it is critical that you must complete the Expenses section of the Financial Statement. This sets out your monthly expenses and what you require each month to live. Again, accuracy is to your benefit. Once you have filled in your monthly income on the previous page, your bottom line will be revealed – once you have subtracted your expenses from your income. This will show whether you are in a negative position at the end of the month. If you are, you must then provide proof on how you are living with this deficit. Are you cashing RRSP’s, using your credit cards or depleting bank accounts, etc.. You must be ready to show how you are paying for this deficit.

The most common error in expenses is missing the detail that it’s a monthly budget. Some people don’t do budgets at all, so looking to fill this out is a real challenge. Other people know what they spend weekly (this is often gas and groceries) or yearly for things (Christmas gifts, car insurance) but forget to do the math to make the numbers fit. Remember if you spend $1,500 in Christmas gifts and $600 in birthday gifts in a year that you must add them, $1,500 + $600 = $2,100 to get your total for the year. Then, as this is a monthly budget, you must divide $2,100 by 12 months to get the amount to fill in the form, being $175 per month. If you are going from weekly to monthly, the most common mistake is to multiply by 4. Wrong. There are not exactly 4 weeks in a month. The proper number is 4.33 to get an exact average. Therefore, if you spend $250 per week in groceries for you and your kids, then you do: $250 x 4.33 =$1,082.50 per month is your number.

Your financial statement is a serious and important document that is SWORN TO by yourself. It is not a suggestion of what you might have, it is a clear statement of your financial picture. Precision is important here.

If you get stuck, get some help. The financial statement also provides assistance as you proceed from page to page. The web also provides you with information on documents at “ontariocourtforms.on.ca”.

A final reminder, if you do not complete an accurate Financial Statement, you cannot proceed with negotiations concerning how you will settle your finances. This makes this document one of the most important you will complete. Until you have your finances settled do not enter into negotiations to purchase a new property (unless you are independently wealthy and can fund your own purchase without your marriage assets being affected). The bank will not approve your mortgage loan until they have seen a signed Separation Agreement or a Court Order. The Financial Statement is at the top of this chain of events to get you to your end result.

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