For common law or married spouses who are separating, a sworn Financial Statement is the most important piece of the puzzle for determining rights and obligations on a going-forward basis. Anyone who begins a court proceeding must complete a sworn financial statement, and anyone who is attempting to settle property or support issues outside of court should complete a financial statement, and should not agree to anything until their spouse has also provided a sworn financial statement. It can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but it must be done, and done properly. Here are some tips for making this process as simple as possible:
1. Take a snapshot of all your debts and assets on the date of marriage or cohabitation: Obviously, this tip is aimed at people who are soon to be married or live together, and not at people who are going through a separation. A sworn financial statement, however, requires you to provide the value for your assets and debts on the date of marriage and this information can be very difficult to come by after several years, so if possible, gather this information in advance and keep it organized and somewhere safe. You can access the financial statement form here to give you an idea of the information you’ll need.
2. Gather all relevant documentation: Put some serious thought into the assets and debts you have. Get information for any real estate or land your own as well as bank accounts, investments or mutual funds, pensions, credit cards, significant assets like cars, boats or jewellery, life and disability insurance policies, money owed to you, business interests, lines of credit, car loans. To the best of your ability, you should have a document that proves the balance or value of each item on your statement. You’ll also have to provide your three most recent tax returns and notices of assessment, so gather that information. Finally, you should collect your most recent pay stubs as these will be needed to show current income, benefits, and deductions.
3. Make sure the documents you’re using for values on the date of separation all have the same date: It is important that all your documents reflect your assets and debts on the exact date of separation and not multiple dates. This uards against double accounting certain assets, and to ensure your net family property is calculated accurately. This will ensure you receive what you are owed if you have the lower net family property value, and guard against future claims based on incomplete or inaccurate disclosure if you have the higher net family property value.
4. Complete the financial statement to the best of your ability before having your lawyer go over it: Highlight any questions you have or any points you want to go over, but it will save you time and money if you gather the information in advance and try to fill out the financial statement yourself – particularly the budget part, which you will know best!
5. See a lawyer: You can (and should) do a lot of the preparation for completing the financial statement on your own, but as it is a sworn document that plays a hugely important role in the division of property or assets, you should make sure a lawyer goes over your financial statement with a fine-toothed comb to ensure it is complete and accurate.