There are about 6.8 million child support obligations in the United States, and about 10% of all divorce cases end with some kind of alimony or spousal support obligation. Now, in 2015, about 10% of the American workforce were self-employed, that equates to about 15 million people. Proving income is important in determining the amount of child support or alimony that might be due in a particular divorce case.
First off, if your spouse is what we call a W2 employee, a typical employee who’s paid by a check, on the books with a wage, that should be fairly simple and straightforward. In divorce cases and child support cases, even cases to modify or change those support obligations, including alimony, you have the ability to engage in what’s called discovery. You can make formal requests for documents. You can get tax returns, pay stubs, W2 statements. You can also issue subpoenas to employers. In those cases, there is a mandatory requirement that your spouse actually exchange many of these documents with you. Usually that’s not where the problem arises, when you have a W2 employee.
The tricky part is when you have a self-employed spouse or ex-spouse, or they’re working under the table, or off the books. So the question becomes, how do you prove their income if they’re not getting a regular check from a legitimate employer? The first thing we suggest is you can talk to their coworkers or their supervisors, and if you’re in the context of a case you can even do that under oath by way of a subpoena. You know, people still do lie under oath, but they are supposed to tell the truth when they’re placed under oath about their arrangements. If they’re the supervisor, what they’re paying with the hours that are being worked by your spouse or ex-spouse. You might also talk to their customers if they have their own business. They have customers and you can find out what is the amount of money that is being paid to them by their customers.
You might also look at their standard of living. For example, they may have a fancy house, a fancy car, new boats, grand vacations. The question becomes, if you’re not making the money we think you are, where is the money coming from to pay for this extravagant lifestyle? Of course, you can get into the bank statements, and you have to get into the nitty gritty of the bank statements to look for transfers, because maybe they’re not being upfront and honest about all of their bank accounts. Credit card statements are another good place to look. In other words, they put it on a credit card to charge the vacation, an expensive dinner on the credit card. Ultimately it becomes a question of how are you paying that credit card bill if you’re not making the money we think you’re making, or if you’re making the money you say you’re making. So, the credit card statements can also be quite enlightening. Also look at online accounts, things where either they’re providing services or products online, such as VRBO, eBay, Etsy, Amazon. A lot of these online sales avenues will give you insight into income that your spouse is hiding. Don’t forget about the new thing where money is being exchanged all the time on these apps, you have Venmo, Cash App, Zell, PayPal, Can Pay, Chime, and by the time you review this there’s probably going to be 5 or 6 or maybe even 10 more.
All of those are subject to subpoena and in the context of a case can be demanded of your spouse or ex-spouse. You might also look at requesting passwords so you can actually get in to make sure they’ve given you all of the right things. So even if there’s not a solid pay record for your spouse or ex-spouse, if you dig in all the right places, you can establish what their true income is by considering these various avenues.