Legalese — Financial Affidavits

image courtesy of MorgueFile
image courtesy of MorgueFile

Other than traffic tickets, most people find themselves in Court for domestic issues. These include divorce, child custody, custody modification, adoption, legitimation, and child support. In each of these cases in the State of Georgia, every party is required to file a document called a Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit, or DRFA. Some counties won’t even accept the case for filing without a DRFA attached to the paperwork.

The DRFA (which, if you want, you can pronounce DURRRR-fuh) is a document which lists your basic income and expenses on an average month. However, like all good legal documents, this can’t be a simple page saying, “What do you make?” and “What do you spend your money on?” Because, the truth is, it isn’t that simple.

Most of us have heard the terms gross and net income, but may not be sure what those terms mean. The DRFA is only concerned with gross income, mainly because child support calculations are only concerned with gross income. In broad terms, gross income is what you make before things like taxes and insurance and other payroll deductions are taken out. Your net income is what your actual paycheck is. For example, if you make $10.00 an hour and work 40 hours a week, your gross income is $400.00 a week. Your net income is probably closer to $275.00, after taxes and insurance are taken out.

When you work for someone else, this is fairly easy to calculate, even if your salary is not regular. A lot of people get lots of overtime one week, and none on others, or maybe bonuses, or commissions. Paystubs as a general rule have a column marked “YTD” or “Year to Date”. To figure out your average gross income, you would look on the lined marked “gross income,” go across to the “YTD” column, and see what number is there. Then – and for this you might need a calendar – you figure out how many weeks in the year this ‘year to date’ covers. You divide the YTD number by the number of weeks so far to get your weekly average, multiply that number by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) to figure out what your projected yearly salary would be, and then divide that number by 12 to get your monthly gross income.

If you are self-employed, or if you are a 1099 employee, it may not be quite as easy to figure out what you make. As a self-employed person myself, I know that the amount I make at any given moment can vary wildly, even by the number of digits in the number. My tax returns are only marginally helpful, since the gross income listed on them is in fact my gross income for the year, but it may or may not be a typical year, which can vary by a factor of ten. Also, I pay myself a variable salary, which makes it a little easier. A lot of self-employed people just take money out of the business and figure it out later, which is a lot harder to figure out. The gross income of the business is not the same as the gross income of the owner, as things like the cost of doing business can be deducted before you get to your personal gross income. When in doubt, ask your accountant, and if you are self-employed, you probably shouldn’t be doing your taxes yourself unless, of course, you are an accountant, in which case you wouldn’t be asking these questions.

Expenses are also sometimes difficult to figure out. For example, you are asked to list the average monthly expense of “gifts your children give to others.” This is something I believe to be unknowable, unless you track every penny through software, which is not something I know anyone to know. For those sorts of things, all you can do is take your best guess. It is ok if your are wrong, so long as your aren’t lying or being fraudulent. Remember: like so many things, this is signed and notarized, which means it is under oath, which means if you lie it can be perjury.

Some common questions I hear about DRFA’s:

Q: I’ve been remarried. Does my new spouse’s income get listed anywhere?
A: No.

Q: How do I know how much the children’s portion of the health insurance would be? It is just one premium.
A. Look at your insurance documents to see or ask your HR department how much the same insurance would be just for you and subtract that from what it is for all of you, and the difference is the insurance portion. If you can’t figure that out, and there are, say, five of you on the plan, and two are the children in question, divide the premium by five to get the amount per person, and then multiply that answer by two (the number of children.)

Q: I don’t get a very big salary, but the company pays for my car and gives me a ‘per diem’ for meals and gasoline. Do I just list my salary?
A: No. There is a separate line on the DRFA for employment perks which reduce your cost of living, or for which you’d otherwise have to pay out of your salary. List them – not to do so is a lie of omission.

Q: My expenses are more than my income. Will someone think I am lying about my income?
A: Unfortunately, a lot of people’s expenses are more than their income. Not all of this is because of overspending – sometimes it is because you have a spouse that shares the expenses whose income is not included, or because you are in the middle of a divorce and things haven’t been split up yet.

If you have more questions about DRFAs, please don’t guess and get it wrong. Speak to a lawyer or someone on the lawyer’s staff who has experience figuring out what to do.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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