When a couple is going through the process of divorce, they are required to file an Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) to request any spousal support (alimony), child support or attorney’s fees. Family Code § 2100 requires that the declaration be accurately disclosed. That means, lying about income or expenses will not to be dismissed lightly. If you think that your spouse is lying about his/her income or expenses, it is vital that you get advice and guidance from a family lawyer, because it is very difficult to prove that your ex-spouse’s declared income and expense statement is inaccurate.
In this blog post, we break down the different information requested on the Income and Expense Declaration. We also highlight what areas spouse’s frequently mischaracterize.
Why Would Someone Lie About Their Income or Expenses?
Lying on the income and expense declaration is a terrible thing to do. First, simply put, lying to the court is illegal (perjury). Second, your credibility in the eyes of the Court is very important. The judge uses these documents and trusts that the information is accurate and true. So, if the Judge finds out that you intentionally lied about your income or expenses, the consequences will be severe.
A spouse or parent may lie about his/her income because of several difference reasons:
- They don’t want to pay spousal support
- They don’t want to pay any child support (or as little as possible)
A Spouse or parent may lie about his/her expenses because:
- They want a higher amount of spousal support than would be fair
- They want more child support to be paid
The numbers that the spouse puts down on the income and expense declaration are important. Omitting important information is also a form of lying. By leaving spaces on the declaration form blank, they’re likely hoping that the other spouse/parent won’t notice. They may also “forget” to attach verification of income documents (paystubs, tax returns, etc.). Another group of people may write ambiguous answers such as ‘TBD’ or ‘Minimal’, in place of actual numbers.
Why Lie About Expenses?
It’s straightforward as to why one would lie about income, but why would someone need to lie about expenses? Sometimes people overexaggerate their actual expenses to show a lower net disposable income. Other times, people may understate their expenses to show make it look like the other spouse is exaggerating his/her expenses. It’s a lot of game-playing when spouses lie about expenses, however it’s useless and counter-productive. Child support and spousal support is dependent on gross income, the income before taxes, so expenses wouldn’t make much of a difference in the amount that one might have to pay unless the declarant was self-employed.
What is On the Income and Expense Declaration Form?
Before going further, let’s break down the Income and Expense Declaration form and what is expected on each page:
This first page of the income and expense declaration form contains sections 1 through 4. This section requests basic information, like:
- General employment information
- Age and education
- Tax information
- Other party’s income
Section 4, other party’s income, is probably a head-scratcher for most people. The other spouse probably isn’t going to be too open about this information. You may put “unknown” here, but from an attorney’s perspective there may be other, better options to go about this.
Here, you will find sections 5 through 11 which will ask for the following:
- Any investment income
- Income from self-employment, after business expenses
- Additional income
- Any change in income
- Assets (cash, checking accounts, savings, money market, stocks, bonds, etc.)
This section requires you to attach copies of your pay stubs for the last two months and proof of any other income. Take a copy of your latest federal tax return to the court hearing. (Black out your social security number on the pay stub and tax return). This page covers all the different types of income a spouse might have that would be relevant to the spousal or child support in question.
This form was designed to be as factual as possible to get an accurate idea of the person’s income and expenses. For general income, the paystubs need to be attached to the declaration for proof of accuracy. Within the self-employment income section, the proof that needs to be provided is the profit and loss statement for the last two years or a Schedule C from the last federal return.
Furthermore, section 9 where it asks whether there was a recent change in income tends to be forgotten about. It can’t be argued in court that you had a recent change in income if you don’t fill this part out. It’s important that everything on this form is as accurate are possible, with no intentional misrepresentation or omission.
Page 3 covers sections 12 through 15, asking for:
- Names of people who live with you, their income and whether they contribute to the household expenses
- Average monthly expenses
- Installment payments and debts that are not listed in prior sections
- Attorney’s fees, required if either party will be requesting attorney fees
Section 13, average monthly expenses, must be accurately reported. Whether it be estimated, actual or proposed expenses, you’ll need to take care to declare the right number. You can either provide:
- An estimate – the estimate based on current/present circumstances
- Actual expenses – the real dollar amount OR
- A proposed amount – usually a dollar amount that is thought to be what the expenses should be, especially if the spouse is living well below a certain standard of living (i.e. standards of a marital lifestyle)
Section 14 then gives you a chance to declare other expenses in the form of installment payments or debts that are “not listed above”. Section 15 is required if you or the other spouse is looking to recover attorney fees; usually, the attorney would be the one to fill out this section or provide you the numbers to do so.
This last page has sections 16 through 20, which covers these following topics relevant to child support:
- The number of children
- Children’s health-care expenses
- Additional expenses for the children
- Special hardships of the spouse completing the declaration
- Any other information that the court should know about concerning the spousal/child support case
When asked about the number of children, you are also required to specify whether they are a minor and determine how much time the child or children spend with you and with the other parent. If there isn’t a specific percentage of time between both parents, there is space to describe the parenting schedule that you both are currently following.
Following this section, you are asked to report on the child’s healthcare expenses and any other child-related expenses such as child care or costs of traveling for visitation. The last two sections of the form asks about any special hardships that you would like the court to consider in making a judgment of your financial status and if there is any other information that you’d like to share with the court that wasn’t asked anywhere else on the form. Of course, this extra information should be relevant to the child custody case at hand.
If you’re unsure if there is anything else about your circumstances that you should share, consult with your attorney. You can view section 20 as a catch-all that gives you the chance to tell the judge anything else that you feel should be used in making a decision. Typically, the parent would write about this on a separate sheet of paper, not in the small area provided in section 20 on page 4.
It should be noted that just because there is little space for some sections, doesn’t mean that you are limited to writing only what fits in there. If you run out of space, you are allowed to continue your explanations. For instance, if you need to expand on section 7 (income from self-employment), you can continue writing on a separate sheet of paper and then attaching it to the form. It’s not required, but a good family attorney will tell you to label each attachment so that it can easily be connected to the correct section. If attaching for section 7, the expanded version should be titled “attachment to section 7” or some form thereof.
Grounds for Halting or Holding Off a Support Order
When perjury has occurred, such as the lying of income or expenses, it can be considered as fraud. If an order has been made for spousal support or child support based on information that is false, an action or motion can be brought within 6 months of finding out about the perjury. In other words, if the judge has already made an order for spousal or child support but 3 months later, you find out that your former spouse lied you can put in a motion to get the order rectified. A notice of motion to set aside a support order can give you time to gather the information needed to prove that your spouse has lied on the previously submitted income and expense declaration.
Whether you are the recipient or provider of support, this is good information to know. As the supported spouse, it’s possible that you are owed more than what you were ordered to receive. As the payer of support, you might be overpaying.
How Do People Get Away with Lying on the Declaration?
A spouse who is requesting spousal or child support might not correctly declare their own income when they work a part-time job or get paid in cash (under the table). There may also be other forms of undocumented income that aren’t reported on the income declaration, such as side gigs or self-employed jobs/projects. When this happens, it will be difficult (but not impossible) to prove that your ex is lying. You would need the guidance of an experienced family lawyer and maybe even a forensic accountant. It’s critical that you go about this the correct way so that you don’t waste time or your chance at correcting the outcome of these lies.
How to Go About Proving that Your Spouse is Lying
Do not attempt to prove that your spouse is lying on your own. A knowledgeable and experienced lawyer can show you that there are other ways of getting the information you need. They will also be able to articulate this issue before the Court.
The other spouse may be subject to a formal question and answer session under oath and subpoenas might be issued to employers, banks, or other people/entities who have the necessary information. It is never a good idea to simply rely on what the other person says without any source of proof. By finding the answers through your own sources, you can start to see the lies that were made.
Again, it’s important that you don’t try to prove the deception on your own. An experienced family law attorney is familiar with these laws and can guide you or help you get the necessary information. As soon as you find out that there is any lie on your spouse’s filed documents, you should contact a lawyer to figure out your next action. There is a time limit in which you can do something about perjury. You do not want to miss your opportunity to make this correction.