Douglas W. Lewis, Lawrenceville/Gwinnett County Divorce, Custody, and Family Law Attorney
GWINNETT COUNTY DIVORCE – WHAT IS A DOMESTIC RELATIONS FINANCIAL AFFIDAVIT (DRFA)?
A Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is often referred to as a “DRFA”. It is a sworn statement of your income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Once the DRFA is in final form you will need to sign it before a notary public and then it will be filed with the clerk's office with a copy being served upon your spouse or spouse's attorney.
Is a DRFA Required to be Filed in a Gwinnett County Divorce Case?
The Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (DRFA) is required by the ‘Superior Court Rules' to be filed by both parties in every Gwinnett County divorce case that involves child support, alimony and the division of marital property. The DRFA is also required to be filed in contempt and modification cases that involve child support and alimony issues.
What is a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit?
An Affidavit is a statement written and sworn to in the presence of someone authorized to administer an oath such as a notary public. The Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (DRFA) that is used in Gwinnett County divorce cases is a sworn financial statement that is signed before notary public.
Why is a Financial Affidavit Required to be Filed in a Gwinnett County Divorce Case involving Child Support, Alimony and the Division of Marital Property?
The purpose of a DRFA is to provide a sworn financial statement to the judge in a divorce case which contains a detailed summary of both parties' financial circumstances, including income, assets, expenses, and debt. In reviewing each party's DRFA the judge can better understand the parties' current financial situation and use that information in helping to decide such issues as child support, alimony and division of property during a divorce hearing or trial. You can think of the Financial Affidavit as a ‘financial snapshot' of each party's current financial condition that the judge can review and consider during a hearing or trial.
An advantage of having to complete a financial affidavit is that it requires you to really look at your financial situation and your budget so that you can better determine what your financial needs are now and what they likely will be after the divorce. Completing a financial affidavit requires that you thoroughly review your financial documents which not only helps you fill out the DRFA accurately, but it also helps better prepare you to testify in court about the financial issues involved in your divorce case.
Domestic Relations Financial Affidavits are used in Trials, Temporary Hearings and Mediation
A DRFA must be completed, properly signed before a notary public and filed with the court before a temporary hearing can be scheduled in a Gwinnett County divorce case. A DRFA is also required to be filed before a mediation session takes place.
How Accurate does the Financial Affidavit have to be?
The Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit must be as accurate as possible because it is a sworn document and because the financial information you put in the DRFA will be scrutinized by the judge and your spouse or your spouse's attorney. Full financial disclosure is required when filling our the Financial Affidavit.
Because the DRFA is a sworn statement you are signing the form before a notary public and stating under oath that the information being provided is true, accurate, and complete, to the best of your knowledge and belief under the penalty of perjury. Also if under scrutiny and cross-examination it is shown that your sworn financial statement is not accurate then it can damage your credibility as a witness. When your credibility as a witness is damaged as to financial issues it may very well harm you on other issues that the judge much decide especially when those issues involve a ‘he said, she said' situation where a judge has to decide which party to believe. Your credibility as a witness on the ‘he said, she said' issues can be much stronger if your financial affidavit is accurately filled out and supported by documentation if necessary as it helps show the judge that you can be trusted.
Does the Court Provide Guidelines or Directions to Follow in Order to Fill Out a Financial Affidavit in a Gwinnett County Divorce Case?
No. Although the Superior Court Rules require the DRFA to be filed the rules do not provide any guidelines or directions to help fill out the DRFA form. Although the DRFA appears to be a simple form to fill out, you will soon find out that it will take longer than you expected. You definitely will need to take your time to be sure that what you provide is accurate because you are signing the financial affidavit under oath and it will likely be scrutinized in court by your spouse's attorney and/or the judge. It is a good idea to set aside a sufficient block of time so that you can organize your financial documents and records and fill out the DRFA with very little to no distractions as it can be a very tedious and time-consuming task.
Helpful Tips in Filling Out the Financial Affidavit in a Gwinnett County Divorce case
Below are some helpful tips to consider when filling out the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit in a divorce case filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court.
Section 1 – General Information
The information requested in Section 1 is self-explanatory: your name and age; your spouse's name and age; date of marriage; and date of separation.
In regards to the information regarding any children for whom support is to be determined in this action you will need to list the full name and birthdate of each child that is under the age of eighteen (18) or if the child is still in high school then up to the age of twenty (20). If you and your spouse are physically separated and living in two different residences then under the ‘Resides with' column state with whom each child primarily lives.
If you have any other children then list each child along with their date of birth and with whom they primarily live.
Section 2 – Summary of Your Income and Needs
You will fill out this section once you complete the other sections of the DRFA as it is a summary of the information from the other sections of the Financial Affidavit.
Section 3 – Gross Monthly Income
Gross Monthly Income is your total monthly income before any taxes or deductions are taken out. If you receive a paystub or statement of earnings it should list your gross income for that specific pay period and your net income for that specific pay period.
You are required to attach a copy of your two most recent wage statements (paystubs, statement of earnings, etc.). When you provide your two most recent wage statements be sure to mark out your social security number if it appears on the statements.
You must state your MONTHLY gross income, not your weekly or annual income.
If you receive a salary with no other additional compensation then the calculation of your gross monthly income is easy. Just take your annual salary and divide it by twelve months.
Be sure you calculate your gross monthly income accurately. Make sure you know whether you are paid every two weeks or every half month as they are not the same. If you get paid every two weeks then you will receive twenty-six (26) paychecks. If you get paid every half month such as on the 1st and the 15th of each month then you receive only twenty-four (24) paychecks. For example if you earn a gross annual salary of $80,000.00 then you would receive $3,076.92 every two weeks if paid bi-weekly [$80,000.00/26 pay periods] or you would receive $3,333.33 per paycheck if you were paid every half month [$80,000.00/24 pay periods]. If you were paid weekly then you would receive $1,538.46 every week [$80,000.00/52 weeks].
Another example would be if you were paid $3,000.00 on a bi-weekly basis then your annual gross income would be $78,000.00 [$3,000.00 x 26 pay periods], but if you were paid $3,000.00 every half month (say on the 1st and 15th of each month) then your annual gross income would be $72,000.00.
If you are paid an hourly wage and you work a set amount of hours per week then you would simply take the hourly rate and multiply it by the numbers of hours you work per week. If you earn $20.00 per hour and you work thirty (30) hour per week then your gross monthly income would be $2,610.00 [$20/hr x 30 hours = $600 x 4.35 weeks = $2,610.00].
There is more involved in calculating your gross monthly income when your hours vary or you receive overtime compensation, bonuses and/or commissions on a varying basis.
When your base pay is not certain, you must rely on your income records. There is no absolute right way of calculating your income when your pay varies every month. I suggest that you gather your income records (paystubs, statement of earnings, etc) for the last six month or twelve months and calculate an average gross monthly income figure based on those records (sometimes you use a longer period of time to calculate the average using w-2 forms, tax returns, etc). However, you may have to adjust your calculation if required by any unusual events that might have occurred during that period (change in pay structure, receiving a raise, elimination of certain compensation, change of job, an unusually high commission or bonus, seasonal work; etc.)
There are some circumstances that may require that a longer or shorter period of time is used to calculate an average gross monthly income figure.
Section 3 of the DRFA list a number of other possible income sources that you must fill out if they are applicable such as commissions, tips, self-employment income, rental income, bonuses, overtime pay, severance pay, interest and dividends, certain monthly benefits, alimony and certain fringe benefits. Be sure to go down the list of other possible income sources and provide accurate information for any that apply. You will likely have to calculate an average based on a period of time of pay as shown above.
Please be sure to inform your attorney of any of these additional sources of income and explain what they are and how much you typically receive.
It is not uncommon to see overtime pay that been received for years suddenly cease or ‘disappear' after a divorce is filed. If there is a history of overtime and commission pay, but such pay just recently stopped then that situation will be closely scrutinized by the court to determine if the lack of overtime hours was determined and controlled by the employee or by the employer. In such situations the court can ‘impute' the overtime income in the absence of compelling evidence that the work conditions/schedules have truly changed. However, past income does not always dictate current income as there are situation where certain bonuses, commissions and overtime pay that was previously received are no longer offered by the employer.
It is very important that your information is accurate as the DRFA is a sworn affidavit. You must expect to be questioned in regards to the information you provide so be sure that you do your best to be accurate regarding the amounts and information you fill in. Credibility is often very important in divorce hearings and trials so please keep that in mind when completing the DRFA.
Net Monthly Income – Review your most recent paystubs and statements of earnings to determine the amount of state taxes, federal taxes and FICA that is being deducted and use this amount to calculate your net monthly income. Do not include other deductions such as for health, dental, vision or life insurance premium in calculating your net monthly income.
Section 4 – Assets
List all assets in Section 4, including both non-marital and marital property. Assets include anything you have that has a cash value, including both personal property and real property, which include, but is not limited to, the following: real estate, houses, lots, cash on hand, checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement accounts, pensions, profit sharing plans, life insurance, automobiles, boats, recreational vehicles, tools and equipment, collections, jewelry, paintings, household furniture and furnishings, burial plots.
If you claim or agree that all or part of an asset is non-marital, indicate the non-marital portion under the appropriate spouse's column. The total value of each asset must be listed in the “value” column. “Value” means what you feel the item of property would be worth if it were offered for sale.
Be sure that you make a thorough inventory of all of your assets and that you list them all on the Financial Affidavit. It can be very damaging to your case and your credibility as a witness if you fail to list an asset on your sworn financial affidavit form.
Valuation of assets can be difficult at times. Websites such as Kelly Blue Bookand NADA are often helpful to determine a value for your vehicles and websites such as Trulia or Zillow can be used to help estimate the value of your home. You can obtain information regarding real estate located in Gwinnet County at theGwinnett County Tax Commissioner's office. It may very well be necessary to hire a qualified appraiser to obtain a more accurate fair market value of any real estate and/or business that you may own.
Section 5 (A) – Average Monthly Expenses
You will need to review your bills, bank account statements and credit card statement for over a period of time in order to calculate your average monthly expenses since many expenses such as utilities will vary depending on the season. Remember that the DRFA must state expenses on a monthly basis so if you have a one-time annual expense, such as tags and registration for your car, then be sure to divide the amount by twelve (12) months to calculate the monthly amount.
Section 5 (B) – Payments to Creditors
In the Payments to Creditors section be sure to list all your payments to creditors including, but not limited, to: credit card debt, school loans, vehicle loans, personal loans and second mortgage/home equity lines [if not already listed in Section 5(A)].
I strongly suggest that you consider obtaining your own credit report so that you can be sure that you have included all of the debt in your name and to also determine if there is any debt in your name that you did not authorize. You can obtain a free annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
Revising Your DRFA
Please notify your attorney immediately if you realize that you have made a mistake on your financial affidavit or if circumstances have changed which require that your DFRA be revised to ensure it is accurate.
If you have any questions regarding the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (DRFA) in regards to your Gwinnett County divorce case, then please do not hesitate to call attorney Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 for a free initial telephone consultation.
Lawrenceville Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce and child custody cases, family law cases, personal injury cases, criminal defense, civil litigation cases and estate planning matters. If you have any questions please call the Lawrenceville office for a free initial phone consultation or to schedule an office consultation. You can contact attorney Doug Lewis by telephone at 770-682-3765, via email. Client reviews can be found on Mr. Lewis' Google + page and on his website.