Divorce is an emotional time, and you might be tempted to hide assets so that your spouse won't get spousal support or a bigger settlement. At the start of a divorce process, each spouse will be asked to fill out a financial affidavit. This document is normally required in divorce litigation, because it provides important information about the finances of each spouse.
This allows a Los Angeles family court to fairly divide assets, property, award alimony, and make other critical decisions about the divorce. In some cases, spouses will simply lie about their finances by omitting important information or by misrepresenting their current financial status.
It is never a wise decision to lie on a formal court document, especially in divorce cases where money is involved. Lying about your finances can come back to haunt you. You can expect your spouse to find out about the lies and inform the judge. If you are caught, you might face an array of punishments.
In fact, lying about your finances in a Los Angeles divorce court could potentially lead to serious penalties, including even criminal charges and jail time. However, any legal punishment will typically depend on the specific conditions of the lie and how the judge decides to deal with the situation. Intentionally lying on divorce papers about your finances is essentially the same as lying to the court, which is against the law. However, dealing with financial issues during divorce can be complicated, and if you accidentally miscalculate or omit some information, the divorce court could decide to be lenient.
Requirement to Provide Full Financial Disclosure
In a Los Angeles divorce, both spouses are required to provide full financial disclosure. This means they must inform the court of all their income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. When one spouse decides to lie about any issues financially related, it could certainly impact how assets are divided, or how much child support or alimony is awarded.
In simple terms, lying about your finances during the divorce process is viewed as an attempt to defraud your spouse, which the divorce court could not take kindly. In many cases, even if your mistake was factually innocent, you might still face legal penalties. At Furman & Zavatsky, Our Los Angeles divorce lawyers work closely with clients so that they make no errors when filling out financial documents in a divorce case.
Financial Disclosures in a California Divorce
As part of your divorce, you will need to provide detailed information about your assets and debts. This financial information is necessary for a judge to do the following:
- Calculate child support
- Decide on whether to award spousal support (alimony)
- Divide marital assets and debts
For example, the non-custodial parent typically must pay child support to the other parent. The judge will calculate the amount using a formula which depends, in large part, on how much the non-custodial parent makes. In order to reduce your child support, you might hide income.
Also, when deciding whether to award alimony, a judge will consider whether you can afford to pay your spouse. Hiding assets might seem like a good way to avoid paying alimony, but if a judge finds out about it, then you could be in trouble
As part of the divorce, you will need to fill out several different financial forms, such as an Income and Expense Declaration and either a Property Declaration or a Schedule of Assets and Debts. For example, you will need to provide the following financial information:
- Hours worked per week
- Income received before taxes each pay period
- Public assistance received
- Investment income
- Self-employed income
- Spousal support (from your current or former marriage)
- Pension/retirement income
- Social Security retirement
- Unemployment benefits
- Workers' compensation benefits
- Disability benefits
You will also need to disclose assets, including:
- Savings accounts
- Money market accounts
- Real property
- Other assets
You submit this information under penalty of perjury by declaring that the information is true and correct.
Collect Documentation in a California Divorce
Instead of just guessing how much you have in assets and debts, you should gather helpful documents to show to your divorce lawyer. Doing so will ensure that your financial disclosures are accurate. Collect pay stubs and recent bank and account statements. You also need to accurately report average monthly expenses, so collect proof of:
- Rent or mortgage
- Property taxes
- Homeowner's or renter's insurance
- Out-of-pocket health care costs
- Child care expenses
- Utilities (water, trash, electric, gas)
- Debts, such as credit card debts or car payments
Sanctions for Lying in California Divorce
You might think it will be easy to hide income or inflate expenses. Think again. You must submit a copy of your financial documents to your spouse, whose lawyer will go over everything with a magnifying glass. If you made a mistake reporting financial information, you can expect opposing counsel to bring it to the judge's attention. The repercussions for lying in a Los Angeles divorce court about your finances could be as simple as some tough talk from the judge.
The judge could also decide to openly reprimand you in court for submitting misinformation. The court might even decide to award more to your spouse, either in the asset division or alimony. If the court had already decided to split your assets in half, but it was revealed you were hiding money, the court could decide to award the hidden money entirely to your spouse. In short, the judge has wide discretion. Depending on the severity of your error, the judge will typically do any of the following:
- Verbal reprimand. This might not sound serious, but you're getting off on the wrong foot with the judge.
- Reopening of the case. If the lie is brought to the judge's attention after the case is over, the judge might reopen the case to adjust child support, alimony, or property distribution.
- Financial sanction. The judge could award your spouse more money because of your lie. For example, a judge awarded a husband in Los Angeles all of his wife's lottery winnings because she didn't disclose them in her financial documents.
- Perjury charge. You can be convicted of perjury if you deliberately and willfully made a false statement under oath. A conviction can result in probation or even jail time.
Correct Inadvertent Mistakes Promptly
Many errors might be accidental. For example, you overlooked the workers' compensation benefits you receive or forgot about an old bank account with a few thousand dollars in it. You won't be charged with perjury for an honest mistake since you didn't deliberately tell a lie. Nevertheless, the judge might still reprimand you or take other action.
If you make a mistake, you should quickly notify your divorce attorney so that they can correct the information for the judge as soon as possible. Prompt correction shows the judge you are committed to providing accurate information and are trustworthy. If you are being financially abused, you will want to contact a Los Angeles family law attorney to learn about your options and determine the best way to move forward.
Contact a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer
Divorce requires reams of paperwork, and it's easy to get confused with numbers. At Furman & Zavatsky, we take the stress out of divorce by carefully reviewing all of your financial information and ensuring it is submitted accurately. We also will carefully review your spouse's financial submissions to find any errors or omissions and bring those to the judge's attention as well. Call our divorce law firm at 818-528-3471 for a free case evaluation.
Furman & Zavatsky LLP
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436