Determining Income in a Family Law Case Where a Party is Dishonest

By Sean Smallwood

One issue that family law practitioners often face is where one party to a divorce will attempt to hide their true income or where they attempt to intentionally manipulate their income to appear lower during litigation. There are several reasons why someone would want to do this including: lower child support payments, lower spousal support payments, reduced financial responsibilities for children, and the list can go on. Most states have divorce and child custody statutes that address these types of issues and this blog post will attempt to discuss some of these in a manner which is not state specific.

In the case where a party to a family law case tries to hide income or is dishonest of the true amount of income they receive. There are many different types of employment where this can occur such as: business owners, barbers, or those who handle the books for their company to name only a few. Though each of these would have its own approach to counter, there are some basics that will usually tip off the court as to what is going on.

Every litigant to family law cases is usually required to file some sort of sworn statement of their income and assets often called a financial affidavit. Additionally, most states require parties to comply with certain mandatory financial disclosure which may consist of recent bank statements, past few years of W2’s and tax returns, credit card statements, and other similar basic financial information. If, upon a review of this information, it shows that the person earned significantly higher income prior to the litigation then there is an indication of some dishonesty or manipulation of income to warrant further investigation.

Should this become the case then an attorney can file a request for production of documents which would require the other side to gather and turn over more in-depth information to cover a much broader time period that the basic mandatory disclosure would as described above. In addition to this the lawyer may subpoena the parties employment and income records from their business or place of employment. Once enough documents are gathered and analyzed then you can sit the other side down for a sworn deposition where your lawyer can question them under oath as to the information acquired in order to nail them down to a single story about the income information.

After this the case will usually either settle or go on to a trial where your lawyer can ask the court to rule that the other party is hiding income, intentionally under employed, or has the ability to earn more than they do and ask the judge to impute that person at an income higher than that listed in their financial affidavit for the purposes of calculating support payments.

In most states family court judges are able to impute a higher income on an individual in cases where they have been dishonest about income, are intentionally under employed, or have an ability to ears substantially more than they currently do.


About The Author

Sean Smallwood, ESQ. is an Orlando divorce attorney, motivational speaker, and guest blogger.