In a Divorce, What is an Affidavit of Financial Information and why does it Matter?
An Affidavit of Financial Information ("AFI") is a family court-approved form that is utilized in divorce cases for a number of purposes primarily where child support, spousal maintenance and/or attorney fees are at issue.
The AFI is provided under oath and is intended to inform the family court of a party's overall financial situation including both income and expenses in order to provide the family court insight into whether an award of spousal maintenance is justified and/or whether one of the parties should contribute to the attorney fees incurred by the other.
The AFI covers any and all forms of income including information regarding others who reside in the household.
Disclosure of Expenses in an AFI
As to expenses, information is required regarding housing, transportation, utilities, health insurance, entertainment, schooling and a number of other items including clothing. Generally, the AFI assist the family court in determining the parties' reasonable needs (in the context of spousal maintenance) and availability of funds (in the context of an award of attorney fees).
A party must exercise caution in preparing an AFI and avoid guessing because the AFI is provided under oath and a party may be held to the financial information contained in the AFI. Further, a party must ensure that listed expenses do not exceed listed income unless the shortfall can be identified. It is also important that the listed expenses correlate with credit card bills and account statements – inconsistency is problematic in the context of cross-examination.
Importance of an AFI
The importance of the AFI is often understated. This is a critically important document in the family court's evaluation of entitlement to (1) an award of spousal maintenance and if so, how much; and (2) an award of attorney fees in the case.
Spend the necessary time to ensure that the data contained in the AFI is accurate and accords with the backup material. Where the AFI is inflated and/or unsupported by the backup material, both credibility and the ultimate result of the case are compromised.
Accordingly, one should avoid the tendency to inflate expenses and understate income (in the case of a party seeking spousal maintenance) and conversely, avoid understating expenses and inflating income (in the case of a party seeking to avoid paying spousal maintenance).
About the author: Mervyn Braude is a family law and divorce attorney at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg & Wilk. He is a certified family law specialist by the State Bar of Arizona. Mervyn is a 2010 Southwest Super Lawyer.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice and only relates to Arizona law. It does not consider the scope of laws in states other than Arizona. Always consult an attorney for legal advice for your particular situation.