Completing this form comes with good news and bad. The good news is that you’ve likely completed the first phase of the divorce process and have that part behind you. The bad news is that the second phase, including the completion of this form, can be tedious and a bit labor-intensive.
As with all divorce-related documents, it is important that you complete your Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) as completely and as accurately as possible. These tips are designed to help you with the process.
You’ll want to make sure you have the necessary information at hand before you start. An Income and Expense Declaration is just that: a form that documents your income from all sources as well as all your expenses. So, be sure you have all information regarding what you earn as well as what you spend. You’ll want to include such things as your latest pay stub, all recent tax returns, retirement accounts, a list of monthly expenses, and income from other sources such as rental properties.
Tip 1: Include everything.
Make sure you don’t miss anything when documenting your income and expenses. Keep in mind that “income” refers to all sources of income including – but not limited to – lottery winnings, public assistance (including social security), any sort of investment income, self-employment income, and large monetary gifts.
Be sure not to miss any expenses, either. For example, if you have real estate property and your expenses exceed your rental income, provide numbers as well as documentation for this.
Tip 2: Who does the Income and Expense Declaration cover?
Expense figures should consider all members of the household that are actually supported by you. If one of the household members lives in the house only during part of the year, indicate that fact. If one household member pays their own expenses or a portion thereof, indicate that.
In addition to the above, you will be required to state their age, their relationship to you, their gross (before any deductions) monthly income, and whether or not they contribute to the household expenses.
Tip 3: Be accurate.
Be sure to complete an average monthly expense for each of the categories listed. Use your credit card statements and bank records to do so along with your personal knowledge. Try to be as accurate as possible, but if you don’t have records available it is okay to guess. To make it easy, round off to the nearest dollar. As with all divorce-related forms, the more accurate you are, the more smoothly the entire process will go.
Tip 4: Make sure you average everything in!
If a certain expense only occurs once every several months or years, it is important to average it in as a monthly expense. For example, if you paint your house every five years because you live in the Harbor, it could be averaged at a cost of $20 per month listed under Maintenance.
If you have an expense that does not fit into one of the sub-categories, talk to your attorney to help find a place to list it.
Tip 5: Differentiate changes in the budget due to your divorce.
It is essential that each figure is accurate in terms of what you are spending at the time you sign the form. If your usual expenses are being delayed due to lack of funds due to divorce, just say so. If your maid bill is usually $500 per month but is now cut down to $100 per month, say so and say why.
Tip 6: List your one-time expenses.
If you have paid or plan to pay a large one-time expense that does not qualify as an ongoing expense (e.g., buying a car), list such expense under the section marked as a “one-time expense.”
Tip 7: Include your most recent employment income even if you’re unemployed.
Be sure to include the complete details of your most recent employment income even if you are presently unemployed. Leaving this information out is a common error so be sure to include it. If you are receiving unemployment, including the previous two months’ unemployment stubs.
Tip 8: Show your work.
Talk your attorney through how you got to each number. If you list $400 per month in transportation costs, explain that your car payment is $299 a month and you spend $101 in gas.
Tip 9: Pay attention to detail.
I know we’ve stressed it before, but be sure to complete the form as accurately as possible. Make sure you pay attention to detail. For example, if you receive a paycheck biweekly, you may assume you get paid twice a month. This isn’t entirely correct. If you are paid twice per month, you will receive 24 paychecks per year. However, if you are paid biweekly (every other week), you will receive a paycheck 26 times per year. Those two extra paychecks can make a huge difference in terms of total income so be sure to get all the details right. Remember to include pay stubs from the previous three months. You will need to provide pay stubs from the past 12 months, however, if you received bonuses, commissions, or overtime pay.
Tip 10: Be prepared to back it up.
If your expense is challenged, it will be necessary for you to give a simple explanation as to how you arrived at that number. Telling the other lawyer or the judge “I just guessed.” usually isn’t good enough. Keep copies of the proof of expenses so that you can back it up. This becomes more likely when an expense is high or unusual.
Tip 11: Ask questions.
The form contains questions that may be a little unclear to you. For example, “childcare costs” refers to what you, alone, pay for childcare. It is not the total cost of your child(ren)’s care. So if the total monthly cost for childcare is $1400 and you and your spouse each pay half, then you would declare $700 in monthly childcare expenses.
If you have a question about any categories or how to fill out the form, just ask. A seasoned family law attorney has worked with hundreds, if not thousands of these forms.
Tip 12: Protect sensitive information.
You will be asked to provide statements and documentation that contain sensitive information. Protect yourself and black out your social security number every time.
Tip 13: Take it one step at a time.
By the time you’re completing an Income and Expense Declaration, you’ve moved into phase two of the divorce process and well on your way. It may begin to feel like things are dragging on or like the whole process is taking forever. The form can feel daunting and certainly tedious. If you are having difficulty with any of the steps, move on to the next one and go back to the one you haven’t finished after you’ve had a break. As always, feel free to contact a qualified family law attorney to help with any questions you have.
Final Tip: There are many circumstances under which you should consult with an attorney. Don’t hesitate to contact one.
You may be able to complete much or all of this declaration on your own, but there are some cases where you ought to consult with an attorney. If a spouse with a high earning potential is not working, or if there is such a difference in income that your spouse’s lifestyle far exceeds yours, it’s best to consult with an attorney. Similarly, if you and your spouse own assets that do not provide you with an income or you have received a substantial financial gift, it’s time to talk to your attorney.
Lastly, keep in mind that you don’t need to weed your way through this form all alone. Your attorney is a wealth of information and can help you with any questions or concerns you may have.