Proving your spouses income for determining child support is essential for receiving a fair child support contribution. If the spouse wants to hide his or her income to avoid paying as much in child support it can be hard to prove.
Generally, courts consider income to include wages, income from a business the spouse operates, income from rental properties and income from investments. If a spouse’s income is in doubt, the court can order the spouse to produce pay statements, tax returns and other documentary proof of income. Courts also have the power to subpoena credit card records and bank accounts. The purpose of obtaining those types of documents is to find out how much the spouse is paying out every month in expenses. If he is paying out more than was reported as income, it can be used as evidence that his income was incorrectly reported to the court.
The lifestyle that is lived by your spouse can also be an indication that his income is higher than reported to the court.
Calculate how much he is paying for mortgage or rent, vehicle payments, vacations, eating habits and other expenses. If that total is well above the income that was reported to the court, it can be inferred by the court that his income is higher. It would not be necessary to prove his exact income in this case.
For those who have recently separated or divorced, it may be helpful to remember you can contact the IRS and obtain copies of your joint tax returns for the last several years. Those dealing with matrimonial issues who did not file joint returns, can ask the court to request them. If tax documents show that your spouse’s income was higher than what he or she is currently reporting to the court, they could be hiding part of their income and the court should be made aware of it. In addition, the tax returns will show if any dividends or interest was reported as income.
Loan applications are another good source for proving income.
If you are aware of a loan that he has applied for, you can ask the court to subpoena those records. If the income listed is different from that submitted to the court, either the application was inflated or he lied to the court. Loan applications may also list other streams of income that were not reported.
It can be harder to prove the income of self-employed spouses. It is very easy for business owners to hide income by paying claiming inflated expenses or even salaries for nonexistent employees. If the business is incorporated, financial statements must be filed with the state. That information is available to the public through the states office that maintains those records, usually the Secretary of State. The court can also subpoena the business’ tax return records for proof of income in prior years.
If there was a sudden drop in the businesses income, right around the time that the child support issue arose, it could indicate that the information is suspect.
It is important to compare the business’ financial statements and tax returns side by side. Look for unusual changes in expenses and income. Business owners can under report income but report all expenses in an effort to hide income. If the income reported was higher in the past than what is currently being reported to the court, the court may demand that the spouse submit proof as to the reason the business is no longer making as much money. The court will then determine how credible that proof is. For example, if the business is claiming to lose money but has invested in real estate or other assets, it could in fact be growing rather than failing. The court can then infer that the spouses’ income is higher than reported and adjust the child support accordingly.
While proving Income for determining child support can be hard if a spouse has decided to hide it, looking for inconsistencies in business income and expenses and lifestyle versus income can expose clues that will infer to the court that the spouse’s actual income is higher than reported. The court has the authority to order a higher child support amount if the judge believes that the spouse has misrepresented his income and the judge believes it is actually higher than reported.
By Christopher Yannon
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