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Dealing with divorce, custody battles or support disputes can be harrowing enough. Trying to complete the daunting Case Information Statement (or “CIS”) required in virtually all family court actions under Rule 5:5-2 won’t help calm your stomach. It’s an undeniably unpleasant experience. It’s time consuming. You probably can’t finish it in one sitting. Yet it’s also arguably the most important initial step in securing your rights and ensuring your “best case scenario” outcome. You can download a customizable CIS here at the official New Jersey Court website. Even if you have retained an attorney, it’s a very good idea to familiarize yourself with the information and documents needed to complete a CIS. Those items include, but are not limited to:
  • Your most recent state and federal tax returns
  • W-2s and/or 1099s
  • Three sequential paystubs from your employer
  • Credit card and bank statements
  • Mortgage and insurance payment information
  • Medical insurance premium information
  • Child care billing statements
  • Utility bills
Once you’ve assembled your documentation and are ready to begin, never lose sight of an obvious but often forgotten point: the family court judge doesn’t know you or your spouse at the onset of family litigation! Through its review of your case information statement, a family court will ultimately gain a pretty complete picture of how your household operates financially. How much do you spend on groceries? Car insurance? Entertainment? That new sports car? Do your expenses outpace your income? And if you’re seeking a child support reduction due to unemployment, yet you report spending over $500.00 per month for tobacco and alcohol products on your CIS, then what effect do you think that information may have on your chances of prevailing? In support cases specifically, counsel and the Court will rely on CIS information to resolve marital disputes and arrive at a reasonable, adequate level of spousal and/or child support. Courts also rely heavily on submitted CIS paperwork to decide the equitable distribution of marital property, assets and even liabilities. Given everything discussed above, the importance of filing an accurate CIS cannot be overstated. Never forget that when you affix your signature to a CIS, you are always doing so under oath. That means any willfully false or misleading information could result in civil and/or criminal penalties. At the very least, providing the Court with bad information will damage your credibility with the court… something you cannot afford when your custody of your children and control of your assets are on the line! The key is to take your time, ask questions of your attorney whenever something isn’t clear, and never, ever simply “guess” when you don’t know the answer. Reasonable, good faith approximations may be acceptable for certain fields. Pulling numbers out of the air is not. As you can see, filling out a CIS is neither easy nor quick. However, approaching this crucial step in the family litigation with an appropriate level of seriousness can pay dividends down the road.
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