This blog post is based on an unpublished case decided by the California Court of Appeal. Husband had significant assets and wife asked for attorneys fees based on the disparity of income. Husband presented evidence from his expert that he had an average monthly income of approximately $15,000. Wife hired her own expert who examined husband’s earnings and assets and concluded that he had an average monthly income of $79,000.
Based on husband’s substantial assets and income, the trial court ordered him to pay $100,000 toward wife’s attorneys fees and costs. The trial court considered the fact that husband had agreed to pay $10,000 a month in spousal support to wife as well as his substantial assets and determined that his claimed earnings were substantially understating his actual earnings. Based on that evidence, the trial court concluded that husband’s claimed income was “ridiculously low”.
On appeal, the husband challenged the order that he pay wife’s attorneys fees and costs, claiming that it was not proper because it was unclear how much income he actually earned on the evidence before the trial court. The court of appeal rejected his argument and said that any ambiguity was husband’s own fault, considering he is the one who has access to the information about his income.
This case is a valuable reminder of how important it is to provide accurate information about your income when filling out an income and expense declaration to submit to the court. If the court doesn’t think your evidence presented is truthful, it can ignore your claims and consider evidence from the opposing expert. Husband here may have actually been earning even more than wife’s expert claimed he owed so perhaps he purposefully left it ambiguous.
It is also important for husband in this case to honestly disclose his information about income and assets in his income and expense declaration because doing so is required by his fiduciary duties, as discussed in my previous post. It is possible that wife in this case could have sought sanctions for breach of fiduciary duty for husband’s failure to adequately disclose his income to the court. However, wife already obtained attorneys fees and costs in this case, the primary remedy for breach of fiduciary duty. If husband had also been hiding assets, he might be required to pay half of the hidden asset to wife as an additional penalty.
If you think you are entitled to a modification of child support or spousal support you should consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action. Call Paul D. McGuire at the Law Office of Paul D. McGuire to schedule a free consultation.