By: Frank Morano, Esq.
You have filed your complaint for divorce, and it has been answered by your soon to be ex-spouse. One of the next steps you will need to complete is to file a Case Information Statement with the Court. The Case Information Statement, or CIS, is an approximately eleven-page form that you and your spouse must both fill out. It breaks down the basic information of your marriage, most specifically both of your finances. To fill out a CIS you will need to gather your most recent tax return, W2, and three recent pay stubs. The CIS takes some time to complete, but it is one of the most important items in the divorce. There are several reasons why:
- Organizing your finances. The CIS provides a single place to list all your expenses, income, liabilities, and assets. It helps to see the big picture of how much you are spending, what are you spending it on, and what you will need to survive and move on from the marriage. We have seen more than one client look at the expenditures portion of their CIS and say, “I cannot believe I spend so much a month on ________.”
- Transparency of your spouse’s finances. If you have been separated for some time and have been living apart, you and your spouse may already have separate bank accounts, credit cards, and debts. You will be able to compare these items when you receive their CIS. The CIS is important because it guides you or your attorney on whether or not to ask for alimony or, if you are going to pay alimony, how much would be appropriate given your income and debts compared to your spouse’s.
- Child support issues. The information provided in the CIS and the attachments (tax returns, W2s. pay stubs) will help your attorney complete the child support guideline calculations. The financial information laid out in the CIS is the same information your attorney will need to determine what to ask for or what would be appropriate for you to be paying in child support.
- Discovery. The CIS is one of the resources your attorney will use to draft financial interrogatories, which are a set of questions that the parties provide to each other seeking information about finances. Interrogatories on other subjects, such as custody, may also be served. The CIS may provide insight into some of the issues your attorney would like to explore in those contexts as well.
- Clarity of information. The CIS provides information not readily available to the other party, or possibly even yourself. Many times, people do not know what the value is of their own retirement accounts, let alone their spouse’s 401K or pension. Completing the CIS forces the parties to gather all the information on past and present retirement accounts, loans, and any other debts and assets that they do not necessarily know the value of off the top of their heads.
- Saving on attorney’s fees. As noted above, a thoroughly completed CIS is an important tool that will help your attorney draft discovery, calculate child support, and draft marital settlement agreements. The more information provided, the less time your attorney will have to sift through documents and ask you questions, thus saving your attorney’s fees for other areas of the litigation.
As you can see, the CIS may seem daunting at first, but when it is completed fully and correctly, it is important to your divorce. Both your CIS and your spouse’s CIS provide the base financial information to keep the process moving and headed in the right direction.