Why Is My Attorney Insisting On So Much Information When All I Want Is a Divorce?

The short answer: Your attorney is protecting you from either paying too much or not receiving enough spousal support or child support and ensuring that your assets and debts are properly divided.

The long answer: In New Jersey, after the Complaint for Divorce and responsive pleadings are filed with the family court, a case information statement (often referred to as a “CIS”) must also be completed and filed. The completion of this document is daunting at first sight, to say the least, and can be time-consuming to fill out. However, your time and careful attention to properly completing the case information statement, with your attorney assisting, will impact the resolution of how your assets are divided and spousal support and child support are determined.

Part A of the CIS requests basic information about you and your family, including birthdates, date of the marriage and a list of existing issues in your matter. Parts B and C pertain to all employment and income related information. You will need to provide information about your employer, income for both you and your spouse over the past year, along with your current year-to-date income whether it is earned or unearned income. Examples of unearned income may include unemployment, rental income from investment properties and passive income received from investments. Typically, your attorney will ask you to provide the last three to five years of tax returns, W2’s, 1099’s, most recent paystubs and/or a report of your year-to-date earnings if you are self-employed to complete this part of the CIS. Additionally, you will need to answer 18 questions that range from how often you are paid to whether you receive bonuses, commissions and other earned and unearned income in addition to your base salary. These questions allow an opportunity for you to provide a more detailed explanation regarding income for both you and your spouse.

Part D is focused on your monthly expenses during your marriage, which will ultimately determine the marital lifestyle for your family. The monthly expenses are categorized by shelter, transportation, and personal expense items.It is important that you calculate these monthly expenses carefully as the monthly budget section of Part D is intended to be a snapshot of your marital lifestyle and will be the reference to guide the court in determining appropriate support based on the needs of your family. If you are not the spouse who traditionally paid the bills in your marriage, your attorney will guide you on how best to present your monthly budget so that you obtain the best possible results for you and your children.

Part E of the CIS lists your assets and liabilities and identifies marital and separate or exempt assets. In this section, you will provide information regarding bank accounts, real property, retirement accounts and stock and bond accounts. Also included are any business interests, life insurance with a cash value (whole life insurance), collectibles and other valuable personal property and vehicles owned.  

Part E of the CIS lists the liabilities of you and your spouse where you will need to provide information regarding any mortgages, lines of credit, long term debts, student loans, revolving charges (i.e., credit cards), short-term debts and contingent liabilities.

Part F of the NJ CIS allows you to indicate if there are any special problems or challenges that were not addressed in the previous sections but need to be disclosed for the court to have a complete picture of the needs of your family.

Part G provides a list of required attachments such as W2 forms, pay stubs and tax returns.

The New Jersey Case Information Statement is, without question, one of the most important documents in your divorce. When completed correctly, your CIS will guide not only your attorney on how to formulate a fair and equitable settlement to meet the present and future needs of your family, but will also be the most important document of refence when a Judge or expert is determining issues of support and distribution of assets.

It is essential that you work with an experienced family law attorney who will provide you with the knowledge and guidance in completing your CIS that will support the best financial strategy and outcome for you and your children.

If you are currently going through a divorce and need assistance in completing your case information statement, we encourage you to contact the qualified family law attorneys at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf, LLP who can provide you with the guidance and support needed to reach a successful financial resolution.