The income and expense declaration is one of the basic forms that people use in a California divorce or any family law case where financial matters, such as child and spousal support, are “at issue” (i.e., people are fighting over it). Because support is, basically, the state’s mechanism for reallocating income between the parties, there is a strong incentive for people to lie on these forms – generally both sides try to understate their incomes so that the recipient might get more money and the payor might pay less. However, honesty is always the best policy and people who lie on their income and expense declarations do so at the risk of committing perjury.
What information do I need to figure out my income?
Well, if you are a W-2 wage earner, much of the information you need about your income is in your pay stub and probably your W-2. Your pay stub should have your rate of pay, pre- and post-tax earnings, deductions from pay, such as medical premiums, and contributions to retirement plans. For most people, figuring out their average monthly income is the most challenging. It is easier if you keep in mind that the average month is actually 4.333333 weeks and not 4. Using 4 weeks per year would understate your income and any judge sitting on the bench more than a day can figure out that little fib. So if you are paid weekly, then you could multiply your weekly earnings by 4.3333 to get your average monthly earnings. If you are paid bi-weekly (every 2 weeks), then you have to figure it out differently. You would multiply your 2 week pay by 26 because there are 26 pay periods in a year, then you would divide that number by 12 to get your average monthly income. If you are paid bi-monthly, then that is almost as easy as being paid once per month. Just add up you last 2 payments and that will equal your monthly pay. Once a month is, well, self-explanatory. If you happen to have changed jobs or were unemployed for a period of time, well, then you can probably calculate a weighted average over the last 12 months, giving appropriate weight to your average monthly income for each period of time.
How can I figure out my expenses?
Again, look to your documents if you cannot reasonably estimate your monthly expenses. Some things, like rent or the mortgage payment, are easy to figure out. It’s usually a big number and most of us cringe when we write the check, so it is easy to remember. Other things, like incidental expenses for medical co-pays or other infrequent expenses, you could think back over the last few months to how many times you had to go to the doctor, find the number, and multiply it by your co-pay for a good estimate. Cell phone expenses, utilities, and other items where you get a bill, are all easy to figure out, but they just take a little time and arithmetic to actually calculate. Again, you should take pains to be accurate. If you overstate your expenses, for example, the judge might think that you are hiding income. It is a very simple inference to make if you tell the judge your expenses are 5,000 and you only make 3000. If you are not using up your savings or maxing out your credit cards, then the 2,000 difference has to come from somewhere. And if it’s not support payments, it’s probably coming from, um, under the table. You get the idea.
Much like doing your own taxes, filling out your own divorce forms can be a real burden. You probably would have more peace of mind and confidence that your forms are accurate if you used a professional. Our office completes forms like the FL-150 and all the other family law forms on a daily basis. Why not call us and let us help you with your divorce forms? If you need or want assistance please call 714-900-3627.