Read LawDecember 22, 2021
Divorce and the Right to Know: A Legal Guide for Utah Residents
During the divorce process, spouses need to deal with important money matters like child support, alimony, and property division. Individuals who file for divorce in Utah must truthfully and accurately disclose a significant amount of financial information on a detailed legal form called the Financial Declaration. As an individual seeking a divorce, you have a right to know an in-depth accounting of the other spouse’s finances. Dividing the property equitably requires the court to have a detailed knowledge of both spouses’ financial situation.
Utah’s Financial Declaration Required in Utah Divorce Cases
When one spouse files a divorce petition, the divorce process will begin. The divorce process will not end until the courts enter a final divorce decree, officially terminating the marriage. In between, the spouses will need to provide multiple financial documents. The most crucial financial document is the 10-page Financial Declaration required by Utah courts.
In addition to completing the document, each party needs to disclose to the other party a completed court-approved Financial Declaration along with the required attachments. Providing a copy of your Financial Declaration to your spouse is not optional in Utah. You are required to provide them with an accurate copy that includes all of the required attachments.
Completing a Financial Declaration Form
Everyone going through a divorce in Utah must file a financial declaration form. It is vital that when you file this form, you pay close attention and answer honestly and accurately. You will need to provide detail as to your monthly expenses. If you or your spouse seek alimony, you will need to complete the column related to marital expenses. You will also need to include multiple documents, such as copies of tax returns, pay stubs, loan applications, documents verifying the real estate you own, and bank statements. Your Financial Declaration will also include, but is not limited to, the following details:
- Your employment status
- Your social security number
- Your gross monthly income, categorized into business income, dividends, interest income, veterans benefits, alimony, retirement income, public assistance, and child support
- Your monthly tax deductions, broken down into categories like federal, state, and Municipal income tax
- Your real property, such as any land and houses that you own
- Your personal property, such as books, jewelry, and furniture
- Your debts, including a list of all the creditors to which you owe money
- Your assets, including bank accounts, stocks, bonds, 401K plans, and more
- A monthly breakdown of all of your expenses, including child care expenses, health insurance costs, transportation costs, rent, your mortgage payments, and utilities
Financial Declarations are Made Under Oath
It is important to understand that the Financial Declaration is not just a form you have to fill out. Instead, it is considered an affidavit or legal document signed under oath. Knowingly and deliberately supplying false information under oath is a crime called perjury. The penalties for perjury depend on the circumstances, but they can range from being misdemeanor charges to felony charges. If you are convicted of perjury, you could face prison time, expensive fines, and have to live with a lifelong criminal record.
What if My Spouse Tries to Lie or Hide Assets?
In an attempt to keep more of their assets from being given to their spouse during the divorce, a spouse may try to hide financial information. When one or both spouses fail to provide accurate information or try to withhold information from the court, it becomes impossible for the court to divide their property fairly. Doing so can be detrimental to the other spouse’s financial future. Utah courts have a remedy for spouses who know that their soon-to-be ex-spouse is lying or hiding assets on their Financial Declaration.
Some spouses claimed that they had information for him because nobody asked them for it. However, even if the other party does not ask for the information, a spouse must make mandatory disclosures. As your divorce case progresses, you may be required or asked to provide additional information from the other party. If your case goes to trial, there will be certain types of evidence you must have met. The penalties for failure to disclose information are serious in Utah. Failure to fully disclose all of your income or assets in the financial declaration form could result in the following types of sanctions:
- Prohibiting the lying party from introducing designated matters into evidence
- Suspending proceedings until the lying spouse obeys the order
- Order the lying spouse or the attorney to pay the reasonable costs, expenses, and attorney fees, caused by the failure.
- Treating the failure to obey the order as contempt of court leading to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a 30-day jail sentence.
In other words, if one spouse fails to disclose an asset that you own, the court has the authority to award that spouse to the other spouse. The court could may you pay an additional sum of money as part of the sanctions. Failure to disclose assets and comply with the financial declarations requirement will not stop the other party from obtaining a default judgment against you, proceeding with the case, or seeking additional relief from the court.
About David W. Read, Esq.
David Read practices family law, estate planning, and employment law throughout the Wasatch Front. Prior to working out of his current office, he maintained his practice at the law firm of Strong and Hanni and later at the law firm of Cordell and Cordell. David provides clients with high quality legal representation as he focuses on implementing the most efficient and legally effective strategies. David has been recognized in Utah Business Magazine’s “Utah Legal Elite” and Super Lawyers.