How Do I Fill Out My Net Worth Statement? Part I – Family Data and Expenses

networth-1A Statement of Net Worth is required to be exchanged in all contested divorce actions and in some uncontested divorce actions as well.

The first part of the form asks for “family data”.  It’s pretty straight forward. You have to assemble names, dates, addresses, social security numbers for all family members (look at your tax returns), educational background for you and your spouse (which can be important, so be specific about degrees earned, school names and when) and health (note any significant health issues here for yourself and your children). You will also need to provide information about your employer and your spouse’s employer.  Be specific here… give names and addresses.

OK, let’s move on to “expenses”.  The form asks for expenses on a monthly basis.  Many people have no idea what they spend for things like food, clothing, entertainment, medications, etc. each month.  Well, it’s time you take a look.  The results may surprise you!

If you’re not using software to fill out the form, I suggest you start filling it out in pencil.  You will have to consult your records to obtain the required information.  The expenses should be accurate “as of” the date you are completing it based on the history of your financial lifestyle, as best as you can determine.

Even if your spouse or someone else pays for many of “your” expenses, you should still list the numbers and indicate who is paying them. Don’t leave the expense out just because you aren’t actually paying for it. Just list the expense with a note (Example: “currently paid by husband”). Similarly, if you are paying your spouse’s expenses, you should list them as well, but make it clear they aren’t your expenses, you’re just paying them (Example: “Husband’s expense that I pay”).

Even if you don’t have actual bills to consult (or a check book) and even if you’re not the bill payer of the household, the necessary information is usually available to you.  For example, you can call your local utility company and ask them to give you what you’ve paid over the past year (and divide that by 12).  Or you can call the utility and ask if they offer a “balanced billing” payment option and what that would be.  The utility will figure out your average monthly bill based on past usage.  By calling the electric company, the gas company, fuel oil company, the cable/phone company and the water company you just completed a section of the form.

You can look at your mortgage statement or call the bank.  If you pay rent and you don’t have the amount handy, call your landlord.  Don’t be shy; you have a right to the information.  Make notes on when you called and how you arrived at the numbers you are using.

You also may be able to get a lot of the information on-line.  Most bills these days provide a link which lets you view your account.  If you get the information on-line, print it out for your records and you’re good to go. On-line access to bank accounts and credit cards is particularly helpful.  Annual credit card summaries are also a great place to get information.

The expenses section of the net worth statement is designed to capture every conceivable expense encountered in a marriage.  Many of the listed categories may not apply to you.  It is also possible that there are items not on the form which you should include.  So the Court and your lawyer know you have not skipped over anything, where a listed item does not apply to you, write “n/a” (not applicable).  If you have additional items to add that are not listed on the form, list them on a separate sheet and attach it.  You want to give the Court, your attorney and your spouse the full economic picture of your marriage as you understand it.

Don’t get overwhelmed.  It’s unlikely that you will be able to complete the entire form in one sitting and you will probably have to do some research.  However, it is important to resist the temptation to guess.  It’s also a worthwhile learning experience and forces you to really figure out where the money goes.  This is one of the few things you can do in the divorce process without too much help from your lawyer, so make the most of it.

Be honest.  If you are unsure of any information in the form but believe the expense does apply to you, simply write “unknown” or “information known by spouse”.  Otherwise, list your expenses based on your experience or best estimate.  If your expenses are expected to change in the near future, you should indicate that on the form.

In my next blog I’ll cover the income section of the net worth statement. That’s a lot easier!

Next – Part II

Copyright 2012 Donald R. Wall, Esq.  Copying is prohibited; thank you for only quoting this blog with a link back.