Most of you have probably never heard of the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit (commonly referred to as the DRFA), but if you and your spouse are staring down the barrel of divorce you’re going to get familiar with this document real quick.
The DRFA is one of the very first legal documents you’ll need to complete upon your decision to split up. In fact, it actually needs to be submitted to the court and your spouse (or their counsel) prior to any preliminary hearings.
At this point, it would probably be helpful to explain exactly what the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit actually is:
Completed under oath, and signed in the presence of a Notary Public, the DRFA is a document designed to itemize all the financial assets and estimated expenses (in average monthly sums) of you and your spouse in their entirety.
Health insurance premiums.
Credit card debts.
Tuition for children.
…All of it.
Even if it’s an asset (like a retirement plan) or a debt (like a mortgage on a condo) acquired before you and your spouse were married. While these will likely be considered non-marital assets, you still have to list them on your DRFA.
The DRFA will be used by the court to obtain a complete and unmistakable understanding of your household’s financial standing, and—in the case of a contested divorce—will be used by a judge to determine alimony and the division of assets. (Attorneys will also review the DRFA to prepare for mediation or court.)
Below, are the five primary sections of the DRFA:
This is where you’re obligated to disclose any and all income you receive, be it from employment, gambling, a pension plan, rental property, disability insurance, or something else.
When it comes to assets, not all are created equal—and that statement extends beyond monetary value. Some of your assets might have been acquired prior to your marriage, or may have some sort of non-marital component. Nevertheless, these assets will still need to be disclosed on the DRFA, although they may be exempt from the divorce itself. Cars, homes, country club memberships, frequent flier miles, 401((k))s—these are just a few of the items that can be considered assets.
The expenses section of the DRFA pertains to any variable cost—like the grocery bill, or the cost of fuel—that your household is required to pay on a monthly basis. Auto insurance, homeowners’ insurance, gym membership fees, utilities—these are all examples of expenses that need to be disclosed.
Debts are different from expenses in that they are fixed—they are not regularly incurred (think student loans), but they do require regular payment. Like assets, some debts might have been acquired prior to your marriage, or may have some sort of non-marital component.
Finally, the summary—the fifth bastion of the DRFA. The summary is nothing more than a neatly prepared and cleanly stated summation of the facts as listed in the previous four sections. At the end of the summary, you will be required to sign your affidavit.
Taken together, these five sections form the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit in its entirety.
The Meaning of Affidavit
If affidavit isn’t a term you’re particularly familiar with, it’s important to clear up any uncertainty now.
An affidavit is a “written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.”
“By oath” means telling the truth on your DRFA (completing all the fields as accurately as possible) is paramount.
For all income, debts, expenses, and assets, securing supplemental documentation in the form of receipts, bank statements, invoices, etc., could help confirm the validity of your DRFA.
Filing a DRFA
If you’re working with an attorney, ask if they will file the DRFA on your behalf.
If you’re not working with an attorney and representing yourself, know that the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit must be filed with the Clerk of the Court (Georgia) no less than 15 days before your hearing.
Remember that the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit is mandated by Georgia Superior Court which means there’s no getting around it, even if your divorce is not going to be contested.
Depending on where your divorce is filed, your county or other jurisdiction might have a slightly different DRFA or similar disclosure form. It’s best to check with your attorney or the website of your local family court to get a copy of the financial disclosure form you’ll need to use.
Also, remember that it’s a sworn legal document, so any lying, fibbing, “bending the truth”—call it what you want—can lead to severe penalties.