Many people faced with having to complete a 13.1 Financial Statement find it a daunting task. Here are a few tips to simplify the process.
The idea of completing an accurate monthly budget has some people collecting bank statements and credit card statements for the past year, and averaging out their expenses over that period, and then breaking them down to a monthly figure. Although it is important to be realistic in your budget, this exercise is not necessary. It is ok to “ballpark” how much you spend on groceries in any given month. Although it used to be that spousal support would be loosely based on the “Budget” section of your Financial Statement, now that the SSAGs have become widely accepted in Court, the “Budget” has become less important. It is still important to ensure that your budget makes sense in a global way. Your budget should not be wildly off base, or your spouse will ask to see all the bank statements and receipts. If your budget indicates that you are running a deficit every month, but you do not have any corresponding increase in your debt, the accuracy of your Financial Statement may be called into question.
With respect to the property section of the 13.1 Financial Statement, it is designed to capture three specific dates: the date of marriage, valuation date (which is the date you separated) and today. Any property that you owned between your date of marriage and valuation date, but did not own on either of those pertinent dates, is not entered on your Financial Statement. The exception to this rule is if it is property that you have disposed of within the past two years. Part 8 deals exclusively with property that has been disposed of during the past two years. Perhaps the easiest way to understand how to complete the property section of your Financial Statement is this: If you took a photograph of your financial situation on the date you were married, the date you separated, and the day you are completing your Financial Statement, these are the figures that you put into the respective columns. Finally, the Financial Statement that each party completes addresses only the property that they have an ownership interest in. For example, if your matrimonial home is in your spouse’s name, you do not put it on your Financial Statement because you do not “own” it. Similarly, if you lease your vehicle, it does not get entered on your Financial Statement because you do not “own” it.
When you are completing your Financial Statement, you should keep all of the documents that you relied on to prepare the Financial Statement, so that you can give them to your lawyer together with your draft Financial Statement. This step will save you a lot of time and hassle in the future, as your lawyer will most certainly ask for these documents. If you are involved in a Court proceeding, it is important for you to know that a Court will not accept your Financial Statement if you have not attached your last three years’ Notices of Assessment (the form you receive from the CRA that has your income tax refund cheque attached to it). You can order copies of these documents by calling 1-800-959-8281. You should always do this as soon as you are asked to fill out a Financial Statement because the process of receiving them takes about six weeks.
Financial Statements are important no matter what path you have chosen to resolve your matrimonial matters – litigation, collaborative practice, negotiation of a Separation Agreement, or mediation/arbitration. The most common reason that resolution of matrimonial matters is set aside by a Court at a later date is for lack of financial disclosure. The thinking is this: if you did not know what you were giving up because you did not have all of the information you needed, how could you have made an informed decision about whether or not it was the right choice for you? This is true when entering into a Marriage Contract as well. Think of it this way – if you are releasing your future right to receive spousal support, but you do not know how much your spouse earns, you may have made a different decision if you had all of the information available about your spouse’s income and income potential.