Working off the Books
When one spouse works off the books or in a cash business, there is the fear of an inability to capture that person’s true income. While it is true, without records and reliable tax returns figuring out a person’s true income will be challenging, there are things you can do to approximate the income for support purposes.
First, you are your own best asset in these situations. You know approximately how much the mortgage and carrying costs amount to every month. You know the what type of cars you drive. You know how many times a week you go out to dinner and where those dinners take place. You know the family vacations, gifts other expenses you pay for on a monthly and or yearly basis. Sit down and take your time. Your attorney will have you fill out a net worth statement. This is where you will put pen to paper and list out all your expenses as well as your assets.
Once you create this list of things, you’ll have an idea of how much money is spent on a monthly or yearly basis. Assuming you’re not in a heap of credit card debt or behind on your bills, you will be able to approximate how much your spouse must be earning to at the very least cover these bills. This lifestyle analysis will assist the court in imputing income to the spouse who’s accounting of finances are suspect. Rest assured that the courts are not bound to a spouse who claims they hardly make a living yet live in a five-bedroom house in an affluent area. If there is a business involved, the courts can have a forensic expert evaluate the business and determine not only how much a company is worth, but its cash flow.
If you are the spouse working off the books, take caution in not cooperating with the courts. You are putting your financial future in the court’s hands. They may impute income to you which is far more than you actually make, which will cause serious financial problems for you in the future if you are saddled with a support obligation which you truly cannot afford. Remember, the courts are not bound to your version of your income, especially if they find your version suspect.
Imputing income is not an exact science. You do not want to spend months—and attorney hours—figuring out what an approximate income is for the off the books spouse. This will cost you time and money and you will be putting your financial future in the hands of a stranger. Speak to your spouse and attempt to work this out. If you can’t the attorney and courts will. Focus on your outcome, stay strong and keep taking ground.