Every person that files for divorce in Missouri must complete two financial statements, a Statement of Property and a Statement of Income and Expenses. On the latter document, the form provides some categorization for more obvious expenses (rent or mortgage, home and auto insurance, auto loans, utilities) but leaves the bulk of remaining expenses to the category of “living expenses” that have subcategories like food, laundry and leisure. How should you complete this section to be sure you have an accurate and complete picture of your monthly expenses?
As a preliminary note, the court relies heavily on what a person sets out in these financial statements, and if the court sees a lack of documentation or otherwise finds an item not credible, the court will reduce the living expenses listed, because the court is required to determine “reasonable and necessary” living expenses only. The court uses these statements to calculate spousal support (maintenance) and apportion other expenses for the minor children. So, the more accurate and documented the expenses, the more likely the court will accept your numbers as a basis for assessing support.
Though it may seem obvious, the best place to begin calculating your expenses is with your monthly bills. When we speak of utilities, most people think of gas, electric and water. But you have other key expenses in that area as well – your landline phone and your cellphone, Internet access, alarm or other security service. All of these expenses need to be documented and recorded.
Some expenses do not fit tidily into a monthly accounting because you may pay them only occasionally, for example home maintenance items like leaf removal, gutter cleaning, pest control or home repairs. You should total all of these expenses for a calendar year and then divide by 12 to get a monthly amount. You should do the same with other categories, such as vacations and gifts.
A significant category involves medical expenses, which include more than just visits to the doctor. Any uncovered medical expense should be documented, from a visit to urgent care to any medications prescribed, and cover not just medical but also dental and vision expenses. Again, calculate yearly sums and divide by 12 for monthly amounts.
You will see on the Income and Expense Statement you have to separate certain sums spent on you and those spent on the children. While not always easy to do, take some time and go through monthly or annual receipts and calculate how much you spend buying clothing for yourself and the children, how much food you buy for you and what would be in the child category. Also, calculate all expenses for any child activity that falls under recreation, and preferably spell out specific sums for recurring events like a basketball league or dance lessons. The more you can document, the more regular the occurrence, the more reasonable and necessary it will be deemed by the court.
We cannot list every possible expense and method of calculation in this post; however, if you read this article you will find a great deal of additional advice. Ultimately, if you have any questions about the reasonableness of an expense or how to include it, you should ask your attorney.
If you have questions about calculating living expenses in divorce, contact us – we can help.