For the past six months I have really been trying to help a particular client, but her anxiety about sitting down and going over her financial paperwork with me had been making it impossible for me to help her.
Recently I was finally able to file a court application (i.e. a motion) on her behalf.
She is a very nice lady who was married for a long time to a successful gentleman.
However, as often happens in divorce cases, when the lady told the gentleman that she wanted a divorce, the gentleman's wallet suddenly became, shall we say, "locked."
He cut her off financially.
My paralegals had been after her for months to help us learn the particular financial structure of her marriage so that we could go into Court by way of motion to try to get her the financial help that she so desperately needed.
But she has been ignoring my paralegals' requests for information.
Finally, this is what she said:
"Why do I have to fill out that damn financial form?"
As anxious as my client was for me to get into to Court quickly to try to get her some financial help, she was totally unwilling or emotionally unable to find the time necessary to sit down and fill out the appropriate financial paperwork so that I could do my job for her -- to try to convince a Divorce Court judge to force her husband to pay her a substantial amount of alimony for herself and child support for their children.
As a result of her refusal to do her end of the work, I was unable to get into Court for many months until she finally ended up eating largely bread and water due to her husband's refusal to support her, which forced her to come to my office and complete her Case Information Statement so that we could file a strong motion with the Court in an effort to force her husband to support her and the children properly and fully.
Once we had her draft of the Case Information Statement, we were able to revise it, type it up, and have it submitted as part of a temporary support motion to the Court.
The adversary resisted vigorously.
In Court, the Judge considered the paperwork submitted, especially the two Case Information Statements of the husband and the wife, and rendered a substantial award of alimony and child support to my client.
What exactly is a NJ Matrimonial Case Information Statement?
The Case Information Statement (CIS) is the financial document that is required by the NJ Court Rules in all divorce cases in New Jersey, and it really quickly becomes the backbone of the entire case.
For example, I use it daily when I negotiate with my adversary on any given case.
Additionally, it is used at mediation so that the mediator understands each party's respective feelings about what the finances of the marriage look like. If we can settle the case at mediation, then the Case Information Statement has served its purpose.
However, if mediation is not successful and if we need to go to Court for a temporary support motion, then the Case Information Statement serves a similar purpose as the backbone of the case. Giving the judge your financial position on how much income each spouse earns, what the assets are, what the liabilities are, how much it costs for the family to live each month, as well as your spouse's position on these issues.
After carefully reviewing both your CIS and your spouse's CIS, as well as the supporting documents, the judge then will balance what you say the financial position looks like versus what your spouse says the financial position looks like and come up with some type of a temporary interim support order.
If the case still can't be settled, then the CIS once again (hypothetically) becomes the backbone of the case when it is used at trial.
Often, between the day that the case starts and the day that we go to trial, we have to update the Case Information Statement because financial data changes.
People often ask me if they should either overstate expenses or understate certain expenses when preparing their CIS. My answer has been the same for 30 years: tell the truth.
Neither overstating expenses nor understating them is useful or helpful, and either one is unlawful as you would be falsely swearing that your statements are true when you know that they are not. False testimony in Court is never a good idea.
NJ Family Court judges want to help people. But people need to give the judges the proper tools so that they can make good decisions.
If you are in Divorce Court, be smart. Be proactive. Be helpful.
But most importantly, give your lawyer the tools that he needs to be able to be able to advocate successfully and powerfully for you.
The faster and the more accurately that you get your Case Information Statement done, the faster your divorce will end, and the better the job your lawyer will be able to do for you in obtaining child support, alimony, and your fair and proper share of the marital assets.