In an era defined by economic downturn, it is not uncommon to find your former chiropractor hawking nutrition supplements or hear that the guy you used to entrust with your stock portfolio is now operating a mobile dry cleaning business/taco truck. When times are tough the tough get going and in today’s market this often means making the transition from corporate to start-up and the overwhelming shift from corporate suit to being self employed. Whether your spouse is part of this nouveau free agent movement or has always been on the family business hustle, a primary concern when facing family law issues is hiding money. Entitlement to spousal support and the amount of child support ordered is based on a parties’ income, so when you realize that what your former better half is showing on paper doesn’t account for the wads of cash kept in his or her rubber band bank, you may think you’re SOL. Not so fast.
Florida courts have long recognized the difference between a spouse on the 9-5 beat and those that are self-employed, in that the latter has the ability to control and regulate his or her income. What is normally deduced from testimony and tax returns for a salaried employee may not reflect the true earnings, earning capability and net worth of someone chasing paper in an alternative work environment. When faced with this predicament, it is imperative to have a knowledgeable and dedicated family law attorney in your corner who knows what to look for when there are concerns about hiding money. Whether it be the shifting of assets, commingling between business and personal accounts, or the corporation improperly retaining income for non-corporate purposes, it is important to have a skilled attorney on your side.
Alternatively,, if you are the self-employed spouse and your betrothed is accusing you of misstating income, it is important to know that there must be competent, substantial evidence to prove that you have been less than ethical regarding your statement of income. In this scenario, you will need an attorney experienced in defending Clients “pass through" income from a sub S corporation having been retained for legitimate corporate purposes rather than impermissibly retained to avoid alimony, child support, or attorneys’ fees obligations by reducing the amount of his or her available income (ie hiding money); as well as other ancillary issues.