Domestic Relations Financial Affidavits, also referred to as DRFAs, are sworn financial statement required by most Georgia courts in divorce and other family law cases. Because the financial affidavit is considered a sworn statement and may be used in trial proceedings, it is important to fill out the affidavit truthfully and make sure all information is correct to the best of your ability. While it may be tempting to lower your income, or increase your monthly expenses on the affidavit, doing so will only lead to unnecessary scrutiny by the other party’s attorney and may place you in contempt of court for making false statements under oath. Below are just a few reasons on why it is extremely important to accurately complete and file the domestic relations financial affidavit in any family law proceeding.
Courts will rely on the information provided in the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit to determine if alimony is appropriate.
Alimony is money for support paid by one former spouse to another after divorce. Under Georgia law, alimony is only authorized in limited situations based on one party’s need versus the other party’s ability to pay. Alimony is usually only granted after a long-term marriage and may be granted on either rehabilitative or permanent basis. The courts will use the financial affidavit to determine which type of alimony (if any) is appropriate. In addition to factors such as the standard of living during the marriage and physical abilities of the parties, alimony is also partially based on the ability to pay, so the courts will also rely on the financial affidavit to determine the amount of money that could sustain the needing spouse but at the same time be feasible for the responsible spouse. It is especially important to fill out the financial affidavit correctly because the affidavit should clearly show how much expendable income or deficit a party has at the end of the month and the information provided in the affidavit may be the sole determinant of alimony award.
Courts use the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit to determine child support.
As provided by the Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.2, the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is used by judges to determine the proper amount of child support in divorce proceedings. The court will evaluate the financial information provided, including the amount of money spent on children’s expenses. Children’s expenses include the child’s portion of health, dental and vision insurance, child care costs, tuition, clothing and even allowance, entertainment and money spent on gifts from children to other children. In addition to the financial affidavit, pursuant to O.C.G.A §19-6-15(c)(2), parties also must file the Child Support Addendum detailing how much each parent will pay towards children’s expenses.
Courts will divide any marital property based on the information provided in the parties’ Domestic Relations Financial Affidavits.
Under the law, Georgia is an equitable division state meaning that all marital property acquired during marriage is subject to division after divorce. Marital property includes gifts from one spouse to another, if purchased with marital funds, pensions and business interests and mostly all property obtained during the marriage, regardless of which spouses holds the title, and debts acquired during the marriage such as mortgage or car loans. Property each spouse owned prior to the marriage will remain separate property and is not subject to division. If the parties are not able to divide the assets and debts of the marriage themselves, a judge will interview and will allocate the property based on numerous factors. Since judges will look at the financial affidavit, it is important to list the amounts of all loans and assets you own and assign a monetary value to household items such as furniture, collectible and jewelry. Unfortunately, hiding assets is quite common in divorce proceedings and the other party’s attorney will pay close attention to information listed on the financial affidavit so it is better to disclose everything from the start.
If applicable, courts will rely on the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit to determine attorney’s fees.
OCGA § 19–6–2 authorizes the trial court in a divorce action to exercise its discretion and to award attorney fees as necessary to ensure the effective representation of both parties. See Mongerson v. Mongerson, 285 Ga. 554(7), 678 S.E.2d 891 (2009). In relevant part OCGA § 19-6-2(a) provides “The grant of attorney’s fees as a part of the expenses of litigation … whether the action is for alimony, divorce and alimony, or contempt of court arising out of either an alimony case or a divorce and alimony case … shall be: (1) Within the sound discretion of the court, except that the court shall consider the financial circumstances of both parties as a part of its determination of the amount of attorney’s fees, if any, to be allowed against either party.” Since the award of attorney’s fees is based on the financial circumstances of the parties as provided in the financial affidavits of both parties, it is important to ensure that all information provided is correct because inflating income or even reducing expenses can lead to the denial of attorney’s fees.
In possible future modifications to child support or alimony, courts will look back to the information on the original Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit.
As previously stated, alimony and child support are determined at the divorce proceedings based on the information provided by both parties in their respective financial affidavits. If after the final divorce decree is entered, one (or both) of the parties seek to modify the amount of monthly child support or alimony, the courts will need to compare the financial information provided on the original financial affidavit to determine if there have been significant changes in either party’s financial status to warrant a modification. Future modification of alimony or child support is one reason to avoid inflating expenses on the original financial affidavit. If an unforeseen increase in expenses could potentially allow for decrease in alimony or child support, inflated expenses on the original affidavit could undermine the change in expenses and thus prevent any modification.
If you are facing a divorce or family law case and have questions about the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit, call our office today at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced divorce and family law attorneys.