What if My Spouse Lies About Finances On Our Divorce Papers?

Divorce isn’t just a legal process – it’s also a financial process which involves key money matters like alimony, child support, and the division of property, debts, and assets.  People who are filing for divorce in Utah are required to truthfully and accurately disclose in-depth financial information on a detailed form called the Financial Declaration.  So what happens if your spouse lies about income, debts, assets, or other financial information?  Utah divorce attorney Darwin Overson explains how supplying false information affects the divorce process – and why you absolutely must avoid lying on your financial paperwork, no matter how tempted you are to conceal the facts.

The Financial Declaration Requirement in Utah Divorce Cases

The complaint or petition for divorce marks the beginning of the legal process, while the final divorce decree concludes the proceedings and officially terminates the marriage.  But there are also many other forms which must be filed in between – among the most important of which is the 10-page Financial Declaration supplied by the judiciary.  Rule 26.1(c) provides, in very clear language, that “each party shall disclose to all other parties a fully completed court-approved Financial Declaration and attachments.”

As its length suggests, the Financial Declaration is fairly comprehensive, and should ideally be prepared with assistance from your divorce lawyer.  The Declaration will prompt you to supply information including but not limited to:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Your employment status.
  • Your gross monthly income, categorized further into different sources such as business income, interest income, dividends, veteran’s benefits, alimony, public assistance, retirement income, and child support.
  • Your monthly tax deductions, broken down into individual categories like state, federal, and municipal income tax.
  • Your real property (like houses and land) and personal property (like jewelry, books, and furniture).
  • Your debts, including the creditors to whom they are owed.
  • Your assets, including but not limited to stocks and bonds, bank accounts, and 401(k) plans.
  • A breakdown of your monthly expenses, such as utilities, child care expenses, and transportation costs.

This information must be provided to the court in order to help the judge make an informed decision with regard to equitable property distribution.  As we discussed in a previous blog post, equitable property distribution in divorce does not mean an even 50-50 split, but rather seeks to distribute property in a way which is proportionate and fair, taking into account factors such as income and earning power, living expenses, and medical health.

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What Happens if My Spouse Tries to Hide Assets?

Needless to say, withholding information or providing inaccurate information makes the process of determining property division impossible for the court.  It’s also tremendously detrimental to the other spouse’s financial interests.  So what happens when this situation arises?

Divorcing spouses must bear in mind that the Financial Declaration is a legal document which must be filed with the court, at which point its contents will be reviewed.  Other jurisdictions refer to the Declaration as the Financial Affidavit, with the term “affidavit” referring to any document which is signed under oath.  While most people imagine a witness with one hand on a Bible, being asked the famous question “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” the fact is that a statement doesn’t have to be verbal to be a sworn oath.

It is extremely important to understand that knowingly and deliberately supplying false information while under oath, whether written or verbal, is a crime, commonly known as perjury.  Depending on the circumstances, perjury can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, leading to prison, costly fines, and a lasting criminal record.

Of course, that’s a major problem (and hopefully, a deterrent) for your husband or wife – but where does that leave you?

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Fortunately, the judiciary supplies a remedy for this exact situation, providing the following: “Failure to fully disclose all assets and income in the financial declaration form and attachments may subject the non-disclosing party to sanctions under URCP 37” (Utah Rules of Civil Procedure 37).  These sanctions could include:

  • “Prohibit[ing] the disobedient party from… introducing designated matters into evidence.”
  • “Stay[ing] (i.e. suspending) further proceedings until the order is obeyed.”
  • “Order[ing] the party or the attorney to pay the reasonable costs, expenses, and attorney fees, caused by the failure.”
  • “Treat[ing] the failure to obey an order… as contempt of court,” which can lead to a $1,000 fine and/or a 30-day jail sentence.

While there are many incentives not to lie about finances on divorce papers, unfortunately, it still occurs.  If you’re planning on filing for divorce in Utah, or have already been served with divorce papers, you need immediate support from an experienced family law attorney who can protect your legal rights throughout all stages of the divorce process.

To talk more about how we can help you in a free and private case evaluation, call attorney Darwin Overson today at (801) 758-2287.