In New Jersey, each litigant in a divorce must complete a Case Information Statement, (commonly referred to as a CIS) and file it with the court. The Case Information Statements are arguably the most important documents in an entire divorce so, though time consuming and tedious, it is important that divorcing parties fully understand what it requires.

A CIS is typically filed with the court by each party after all pleadings (Complaint and Answer) have been filed. Generally, it provides your financial profile to the court and your adversary. The CIS is important because it: (1) tells your lawyer most things they need to know about your financial status; and (2) facilitates disclosure of the same information to your spouse and his/her attorney, which they will require before proceeding with litigation or meaningful talks of settlement. Without the information contained in the CIS, neither party will be able to make informed decisions about the significant financial issues (for example, alimony) in your case. Even if neither party has filed a Complaint with the court, they may still exchange Case Information Statements because the information contained therein is so crucial in a divorce.

Part A of the CIS elicits basic information about each party and details related to your case, such as if/when a Complaint was filed. It identifies the issues in dispute, such as custody, alimony, equitable distribution and counsel fees. It also seeks information related to any children the parties may have, whether from the instant relationship or otherwise.

Part B seeks miscellaneous information related to your employment and insurance coverage. Specifically, you must set forth whether insurance is available through your employer and, if so, what types of coverage you have obtained through work.

Part C requires information related to your and your spouse’s income. It provides a breakdown of the last year’s gross and net income for both parties. It will also require information related to present earned and unearned income for both parties. The section regarding present and year-to-date earned income will be calculated in part based on your three most recent paystubs, which must be attached to the CIS (as well as the most recent tax return). This will include information related to deductions taken from your paycheck and will ultimately require a calculation of net average weekly and monthly pay. Though tedious, these figures help narrow issues related to alimony and child support, if either are applicable.

Part C further asks a series of questions related to income, including information related to salary, raises, bonuses, commissions, supplemental income or income not otherwise accounted for in the CIS. You must set forth whether you receive unemployment, disability, social security, alimony or child support. You must also state whether you pay alimony, child support or claim any dependents.

Part D contains a detailed breakdown of your monthly expenses (calculated at 4.3 weeks/month). It includes monthly expenses for your joint lifestyle (spouse and children included) and your current lifestyle, if that is different from joint. For example, divorcing spouses that still live together would likely only fill out the joint lifestyle expenses. Part D delves into the tedium of your lifestyle and is broken down by schedules.

Schedule A seeks information related to shelter expenses. If you are a tenant, this includes rent payments, insurance, utilities and parking. If you are a homeowner, this includes mortgage payments, real estate taxes, utilities, maintenance and other homeowner fees, like condominium dues. Regardless of your residential status, this section further seeks an expense breakdown for cable, telephone, internet, security and furnishings.

Schedule B elicits information regarding transportation. This section itemizes car payments, car insurance, registration and license fees, fuel, maintenance and commuting expenses.

Schedule C covers personal expenses. These include, but are not limited to, food, clothing, medication, personal care, laundry, hobbies, vacations, gifts, education costs, child care, savings, life insurance premiums, pet care and professional expenses. While the Schedule C expenses are itemized in great detail, there is a catch-all line item to incorporate any other expense that is otherwise unaccounted for in the CIS.

Part E creates a balance sheet of assets and liabilities. Because many of these items are subject to appraisal or require estimates, it is common for a filed CIS to include estimated or to-be-determined values in Part E. Even if you cannot value your assets and liabilities at the time you file your CIS, this section facilities full disclosure of everything you and your spouse may own or owe.

For assets, the CIS identifies real property, bank accounts, vehicles, tangible personal property, stocks, bonds and securities, retirement plans like IRAs, 401ks and pensions, businesses, life insurance and loans receivable. The form allows you to denote to whom the asset is titled, a date of acquisition, a value and date of valuation. There is an option to indicate whether the asset is exempt from distribution and a basis for the exemption, for example, if it was acquired prior to the marriage. You may also include footnotes to further explain your breakdown of assets.

For liabilities, the CIS identifies mortgages, long and short term debts, revolving charges and contingent liabilities. You may designate a responsible party and also indicate whether you contend that liability should not be shared.

Part F enables a party to provide a brief narrative statement of any special problems that may exist in the case. For example, a closely held business may be difficult to value or special medical problems of a family member may warrant a notation in Part F.

Part G lists required attachments such as W-2s, paystubs and child support guidelines, if applicable. These are submitted along with your CIS.

While the form may feel like a one-size-fits-all template, there is ample opportunity to customize your CIS to accurately reflect your financial picture. You can include footnotes to further explain an expense breakdown, note whether a calculation is an estimate or indicate that your spouse may have the information required to populate certain fields of the form. Furthermore, you can denote whether an item is exempt from distribution or make a notation of when or how an asset was acquired or a liability incurred.

The CIS requires the filing party’s signature and is a sworn statement submitted to the court under penalty of perjury. Therefore, thoroughness and accuracy are of paramount importance. Although filling out the CIS can be burdensome and require combing through your financial history with frustrating diligence, its completion will mark the first step towards narrowing and resolving the financial issues implicated by your divorce. A great divorce attorney can walk you through the process of completing the CIS, explain its relevance to your case and astutely review your spouse’s CIS to ensure informed, zealous advocacy of your interests throughout your divorce.