Court Procedures Made Simple

Both Provincial and Supreme Courts require the filing of a Financial Statement in Family Law matters. These statements are important tools, and are often what the court will depend on to make decisions regarding property division, as well as child and spousal support. If you are attending mediation or Collaborative Law it is equally important to know your and your partner’s financial situation. These facts are essential to reaching a reasonable settlement.

Both courts have pre-prepared Financial Statement forms. Form 4  is used in Provincial Court and Form F8 used in Supreme Court. Mediators often have clients fill out one of these forms. It is important that you and your partner use the same form.

While a great deal of effort has gone into making these forms easy to use, many people have difficulty. Even when represented by lawyers, many mistakes can be made.

The most common mistakes relate to income and expenses. People tend to underestimate their income, and overestimate their expenses. Judges react negatively to individuals who claim that their expenses far outweigh their income. These simple mistakes destroy your credibility. They also impede settlement.

There are circumstances where people are legitimately living beyond their means. This occurs most often when one person moves out of the family home and leaves the other with all of the bills to pay. In these circumstances, it is crucial to reflect your other sources of funding in the Financial Statement. These include loans from family, lines of credit, credit cards or the sale of assets. Some people are reluctant to provide this information because they feel it makes them look bad.

In terms of income, it is important to include involuntary expenses that affect cash flow. For example, a government employee cannot refuse to pay for union dues, superannuation pension, or extended medical insurance. The latter two are not reflected on your tax return but do impact your financial picture. They are important considerations in determining spousal support.

The Expense portion of the Financial Statements creates a huge difficulty because few people actually know what they spend. Accurately completing this portion is very important, but people get too bogged down in trying to be precise. The section asks you to make an honest estimate. If it is not exact, it is not a problem. However, if it is wildly inaccurate, your credibility will be impacted.

Many people often forget to include their legal fees in their Financial Statements. In fact, many lawyers still resist including this information. However, the cost of your lawyer or mediator will have a significant impact on your short-term cash flow and your long-term financial security. Recognizing the true cost of legal fees can encourage settlement.

Always take the time to properly prepare a Financial Statement. Most lawyers will have their assistant help you. But as you are swearing to the truth of the Financial Statement, accuracy is essential.

Michael Butterfield

Collaborative Lawyer & Mediator


Advice for the Self-Represented

If you are self-represented, hire a paralegal to assist you. It will cost you about $150 and may save you thousands of dollars. Paralegals can also help you prepare for hearings and organize your evidence.

Areas of Practice: Family law including separation, divorce, mediation, arbitration, child & spousal support, support variations, guardianship, parenting time, access, property division and more.

Victoria BC