If you've filed anything in the Rhode Island Family Court since the new nine (9) page DR-6 Financial Statement of Assets and Liabilities has been imposed by the court, then I'd like to hear from you.
I will tell you that it's no secret that both attorneys and clients are troubled by the form.
The form clearly strives to be just about as "all inclusive" as you can get and most assuredly is more time consuming both for the client to fill out and for the attorney either to review or to instruct the client on, wouldn't you think that some sort of instructions would have been created for the form?
Now, here's the strange part. By reading this short article you might think me the pessimist and one to find fault with everything. However, for those those who know me I am quite the opposite and far from lazy.
As so many other divorce attorneys I take the DR6 Financial Form seriously which is as it should be since the form was presumably intended to help give the court and the opposing party a relatively accurate picture of the other party's financial perspective.
The form is supposed to be signed and sworn to under oath as being accurate. It is also supposed to be updated as significant changes occur. Additionally, the DR-6 Statement of Assets and Liabilities is a tool for both examination and cross-examination of a party.
I, for one, thought that either instructions or in the very least definitions would have been created for attorneys to direct our clients. However, according to one attorney involved in form creation process there is no intention to do so at any time in the future.
When I asked "Why?", the response was that the form was intuitive and rather obvious to follow and that attorneys would know what was intended.
I must disagree. I've been called by people trying to represent themselves, countless clients and even other experienced family law attorneys asking what was intended to be filled into a particular area of the DR-6 form.
Disregarding the new rule that the DR-6 must be printed on "green paper" there remain too many unanswered questions about the form.
Just as the Child Support Guidelines provide for varying methods of calculation in different circumstances (or differing scenarios/possibilities) so too does the DR-6 form.
Is the DR-6 intended to show both parties collective financial picture if they are still living together?
Is the DR-6 intended to show only one party's contribution to the finances if the parties are still living together?
Is the DR-6 meant to include under the debt section the debts of both or the parties in the marriage?
Is the DR-6 mean to include in one person's form under the debt section the debts only that the person signing the form is paying? Or perhaps it is only to fill out the debts that the person signing the form is legally obligated to pay regardless of whether they are paying them or not?
Under the child expenses portion of the DR-6 is this intended to include the child expenses of the parties, or maybe only the portion that party is currently paying? Is the child expenses section only for minor children of the parties or is it for all children, including step-children?
What if the parties have always had separate financial accounts during their marriage but they have access to the financial information of their spouse's financial accounts? Do they include those accounts since they might claim the accounts are marital funds earned during the marriage?
The same questions can be applied to assets. If the deed to the house is in the wife's name and it was purchased during the marriage but the husband is on the mortgage to the house, then a lawyer might argue that it is a marital asset and therefore even though it is in the wife's name that it should be listed as real estate on the husband's DR-6 form, but is this what was expected by the creators of the form?
If many lawyers and citizens of our good state don't know what was truly intended by each aspect of the form, then perhaps the creators of the form were not in the same page when designing the form. Whether or not that is the case, without guidance in the way of instructions or definitions providing some level of uniformity how can anyone be sure if they are filling it out correctly, instructing their clients correctly or even if the judges are interpreting it uniformly.
What do other lawyers, judges and consumers think about this form?
Did you like the Excel spreadsheet form or is the PDF Form working better for you?
I'll end with what one person said to me about the new DR-6 that made me laugh, namely,
"That Form is Cursed!"
I'd like to hear your comments.
All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™
Call me for your reduced-cost family law advice session at (401) 632-6976.