Kimberly Ann Dasse, a family law practitioner based in Hong Kong, has prepared a series of articles on divorce proceedings, examining some of the main steps on the path to dissolving a union. Last week she covered grounds and facts of divorce. This week she covers financial disclosures.
Form E Financial Statement
Once a petition is filed, the parties will be given an appointment for their first appearance before the judge, a “First Appointment”. Twenty-eight days prior to the First Appointment, the parties must exchange financial information. The disclosure is done through completion of a Form E Financial Statement, which is a sworn statement filed in the court, meaning that criminal liabilities may attach for failure to give a “full, frank and candid” disclosure. This is the main – and really only chance – to give one’s full financial picture as courts want parties to “put their cards on the table” early in the proceedings.
The first section of the form asks for general information on the party’s employment status, number of household members, and information on the children, including their educational needs, health status, and financial arrangements for them.
Next is the Asset disclosure section, which is rather detailed and will require production of documents in addition to completing the Form E itself. A party will be expected, for example, to provide information on any properties, bank accounts, private companies, stocks, bonds, life insurance, and pensions s/he owns. Disclosure is not limited to Hong Kong-owned assets. Overseas assets are expected to be disclosed as well.
There is also a section on Liabilities, including disclosure of credit card debts and production of three months’ worth of statements.
One’s Income, in all of its various forms, must be disclosed as well: full-time and part-time work, perks, etc.
Parties must also disclose their Expenses. There are three categories for which the courts seek disclosure: general, personal, and children. Parties should provide information on the current status of expenses as well as future expenses, whether an expected increase or decrease. For example, prior to the filing of proceedings, the parents may have agreed that a child would be entering private school in Autumn. Although this is not a current expense, it is an expense that is anticipated in the near future. It would be appropriate to claim this future expense.
The disclosures on the Form E are important and will be the basis of future proceedings. Although the form is simple and designed for a lay person to be able to fill out, for individuals with more substantial assets, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a solicitor and ensure full, frank and candid disclosure early in the proceedings.