Under the New Jersey Rules of Court, every litigant entering divorce litigation in which alimony, equitable, child support or counsel fees are at issue is required to complete a Case Information Statement and submit required financial documents as attachments. Specifically, Rule 5:5-2 sets forth the framework for the filing and completion of this statement:
Rule 5:5-2. Family Case Information Statement
(a) Applicability. The case information statement required by this rule shall be filed and served in all contested family actions, except summary actions, in which there is any issue as to custody, support, alimony or equitable distribution. With respect to summary actions, R. 5:5-3 shall apply. In all other family actions, a case information statement may be required by order on motion of the court or a party.
(b) Time and Filing. Except as otherwise provided in R. 5:7-2, an initial case information statement or certification that no such statement is required under subparagraph (a) shall be filed by each party with the clerk in the county of venue within 20 days after the filing of an Answer or Appearance or at any other time designated by the court. The Family Case Information Statement shall be filed in the form set forth in Appendix V of these rules. The court on either its own or a party’s motion may, on notice to all parties, dismiss a party’s pleadings for failure to have filed a case information statement. If dismissed, said pleadings shall be subject to reinstatement upon such conditions as the court may deem just.
(c) Amendments. Parties are under a continuing duty in all cases to inform the court of any material changes in the information supplied on the case information statement. All amendments to the statement shall be filed with the court no later than 20 days before the final hearing. The court may prohibit a party from introducing into evidence any information not disclosed or it may enter such other order as it deems appropriate.
(d) Income Tax Returns. Following the entry of a final judgment, the court shall order the return to the parties of any income tax returns filed with a case information statement under this rule.
(e) Marital, Civil Union or Domestic Partnership Standard of Living Declaration. In any matter in which an agreement or settlement contains an award of alimony, (1) the parties shall include a declaration that the marital, civil union or domestic partnership standard of living is satisfied by the agreement or settlement; or (2) the parties shall by stipulation define the marital, civil union or domestic partnership standard of living; or (3) the parties shall preserve copies of their respective filed Family Case Information Statements until such time as alimony is terminated; or (4) any party who has not filed a Family Case Information Statement shall prepare Part D (“Monthly Expenses”) of the Family Case Information Statement form serving a copy thereof on the other party and preserving that completed Part D until such time as alimony is terminated.
(f) Confidentiality. The Family Case Information Statement and all attachments thereto shall be confidential and unavailable for public inspection, pursuant to R. 1:383(d)(1).
At first glance, this ten-page document is undoubtedly overwhelming for any litigant to complete. The following are three (3) tips that every litigant should know when completing his or her Case Information Statement:
1) Be As Accurate As Possible: While is it uncommon for every litigant to know his or her monthly expenses down to the penny, judges appreciate litigants that can either a) Substantiate their monthly budgets with recent bills (for example: utilities, cable/tv/internet, gas receipts, grocery receipts, etc.); or b) provide monthly numbers that do not end in “0.” Upon application to the Court for pendente lite support, it is very common for judges to “knock-down” a litigant’s monthly expenses that end in “0” because judges find the expenses to be either inflated or a complete guess.
2) Highlight special issues for the Judge: On the last page of the Case Information Statement is a Section F entitled “Statement of Special Problems.” This is a litigant’s opportunity to provide a brief summary of any special issues in their case. For example, the prompt included in every Case Information Statement includes complex valuation issues regarding a business or a family member’s health issues. Additional examples can include a date upon which a spouse left the marital home and issues regarding payment of current marital bills, or a spouse’s failure to file business income tax returns for a business in which that spouse holds an ownership interest.
3) Continue to Update: Under the Court Rules, every litigant is obligated to update his or her Case Information Statement as their financial circumstances change. Examples of changed financial circumstances include a job change, job loss, receipt of unemployment income, new housing expenses if he or she has secured living arrangements outside of the marital home.
Taken together, each client’s divorce case is unique and fact sensitive, but what is a constant in every divorce case is the Case Information Statement requirement. For more information regarding effective and efficient representation and guidance through divorces in New Jersey contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates, P.C. At the law office of Lyons & Associates, we represent adoptive parents throughout New Jersey. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail, view our website at www.lyonspc.com, or call our office at 908-575-9777.