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Tackling the Statement of Net Worth

  • by Danielle Montalto-Bly

After one spouse serves the other with a Summons for Divorce, the parties must figure out whether the matter will be contested or uncontested. Will the parties be able to work out the terms of divorce through negotiations, or will they need the assistance of the court to come to a determination? The most useful aid in figuring this out is the Statement of Net Worth. It allows the parties to provide each other with an overview of their income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Once the parties, and presumably their attorneys, have all the chips on the table, each can assess what he or she believes to be a fair division of the assets and present their offer or demand to the other side. 

The Courts have become extremely strict when it comes to the preparation and accuracy of the document. If the Court learns that a party has misrepresented their financial picture to their spouse, the could order counsel fees and/or fines. This is because the parties generally rely heavily on the accuracy of these documents to settle a case. If it turns out these numbers are not accurate later on, it could lead to more litigation. 

So, what is the key to tackling this document: 

  1. Be prepared. Someone preparing a Statement of Net Worth must reference a number of different financial documents in order to provide accurate numbers. Be sure to sit down with a hard copy of the document, last year’s tax return, W-2/1099 if applicable and access online banking and mortgage statements. We always suggest that our clients fill out the document by hand, first, so that their responses are most accurate. 
  2. Don’t overthink. The document is long and likely includes a lot of line items that will not pertain to every case. Begin by going through the document and marking the lines that do not apply with “N/A” or “0” to reduce the feeling that there is so much to do. Next, fill in the items that are easy to recall. Save the hardest items that require a review of documents for last, so that there is a sense of accomplishment as the last lines are completed. 
  3. Rely on retained counsel. Attorneys are there to review the document and answer any questions. If a client does his or her best to complete the document before accessing their attorney for questions, it will likely make it easier for the attorney to help and will eliminate the need to incur counsel fees for minor issues that a client can address on their own. 

Divorce isn’t fun. Statements of Net Worth are tedious, but so important. Heed this advice and it should make the process slightly more bearable. Contact our attorneys for further information or help when it comes to your divorce matter.