During the course of a bitter divorce, some people are tempted to be less than truthful about their actual financial state in order to avoid paying less money in support and to keep a greater share of property. While this practice is unfortunately common, failing to declare all of your assets and sources of income on a financial affidavit can have serious consequences.

Financial affidavits are required during divorces, legal separations, and child support and custody matters. Each party involved in the case submits a financial affidavit under penalty of perjury, which means that each person swears under oath that the information in the affidavits is complete and true.

If a person lies on a financial affidavit there may be both criminal and civil penalties. The extent of the punishment often depends on the extent and severity of the false information as well as each party’s history of deception. For instance, a person who neglects to include a minor source of income may face only a reprimand or a small fine, whereas a savvy investor who spent years hiding assets and defrauding the court may face jail time. In general, the judge has discretion to decide what the penalty will be. Often, the judge will at least order the party at fault to pay the other’s attorneys’ fees.

In addition to facing civil or criminal charges, a person who lies on a financial affidavit may lose his or her rights under existing contracts. For example, if a couple signed a prenuptial agreement that stipulated how much property each partner will receive in a divorce, then the judge in the case will usually abide by the parties’ wishes. However, if one partner lied about how much money or how many assets he or she had at the end of the marriage, the judge may choose to void some or all of the prenuptial agreement.

Unfortunately, while lying on a financial affidavit is prohibited, it is also extremely common. Since the nature of family law relies on things like he-said, she-said testimony, it is very easy for parties to hide the truth from their former partner and the judge in the case.

The best way to prevent deception on financial affidavits is to be prepared and to be thorough. If you are concerned that your partner may hide assets or income streams during a divorce case, then it is important to obtain proof of these assets before a divorce is even contemplated. Spouses who are able to make copies of financial records, account statements, and other important documents will have solid proof of the existence of these assets in case their partner is not entirely truthful in the divorce.

After a divorce case begins, spouses who are concerned that their former partner may be hiding assets may need to hire financial experts like accountants or auditors to make sure that the numbers on the financial affidavits don’t lie. Reviewing the financial information that a person produces is often the best way to check for inconsistencies that may affect the amount of support that person has to pay.

When your former spouse lies about his or her financial state, you and your children suffer. People have an obligation to support their families during and after a divorce, and those who shirk these responsibilities should face the consequences.

At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys are experienced with high-conflict divorces, and know how to hold deceptive spouses accountable. If you are getting a divorce or are navigating a complicated child custody matter, speak with the attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law today. To find out more about your options, call 360-926-9112 to schedule your appointment.