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Understanding California Family Law Form FL 150

May 26, 2023

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Your Income and Expense Declaration

Some of the most common questions we hear from divorcing spouses are about California Family Law Form FL-150. Successfully completing and submitting court paperwork for a divorce can be daunting, but there is no way around declaring your full and complete income and financial information to the court system as well as to your spouse. Attempting to cheat the system, avoid filing, or obscure your own financial picture will only backfire in a divorce. What is more, filing an incorrect or incomplete Form FL-150 without the help of a divorce attorney in California can also cost you during a trial.

The bottom line is this: if you are seeking a divorce in California, you will absolutely have to prepare an Income and Expense Declaration, Judicial Council Form FL-150, usually more than once. It does not matter if you are absolutely destitute, homeless, without income, and with only the clothes on your back you will still have to prepare an Income and Expense Declaration.

What is Income and Expense Declaration?

The divorce Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) is the court’s way of understanding your financial situation. The information that you declare on Form FL-150 can be used to help determine child support, attorneys’ fees, asset division, which divorcing partner pays alimony or spousal support, and more.  It is also used to determine your income in a child support or spousal support case.

When you fill out the Income and Expense Declaration under California law, you must sign that everything is true and correct.  When you sign the FL-150, you are declaring that all of your information is correct under penalty of perjury. Perjury, or willfully misrepresenting the truth, is a criminal offense under the California Penal Code. Filling out false information on the Income and Expense Declaration form can cost you fines of up to $10,000, as well as up to four years in jail. While matters rarely escalate that far, it is important to make sure that the information you put on Form FL-150 is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge. A highly skilled California family law attorney can help you with this.

Using Family Law Form FL 150 to Determine Support Payments

Family law form FL-150 can be used to determine spousal support as well as child support payments. In general, the higher your proven monthly expenses are, the more support you are likely to receive from a higher earning spouse. Disparity between spousal income and expenses is another key factor in determining support payments.

You must attach documentation for your average costs, such as household expenses, transportation, and child care. Do not overestimate your costs, but make sure that you include debt payments, installment plans, and self-employment expenses. By doing so, you may be able to prove that your disparity in income with your spouse should lead to them contributing more to your support payments.

Does FL 150 Have to Be Filed with the Court?

You must file FL 150 within the first 60 days of the initial divorce papers being served. Both spouses must complete this form, not just whichever spouse initiates the proceedings.  The FL-150 must also be filed with the court whenever either party is seeking to modify existing child support orders, during paternity disputes, or whenever one spouse requests or seeks to adjust spousal support payments from the other.

How Long is an Income and Expense Declaration Good For?

You must file your FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration in a timely manner to be able to use it. The form is only valid for 90 days after being signed, not from the filing date.

How Do I Prove My Ex is Lying about Income?

If you suspect that your ex-spouse is lying about their income, contact Pinkham & Associates, APLC for help. During the discovery process, your family law attorney can request a review of bank statements, credit card statements, pay stubs, tax returns and many other financial forms and records. We will examine these documents carefully in order to uncover intentional misrepresentations or false estimates of income. We are also able to subpoena witnesses in your ex-spouse’s life in order to testify about hidden cash payments, obfuscation of assets, and more.

How to Fill out Income and Expense Declaration Form FL 150?

You will need to itemize and prove all of your income and expenses on Form FL 150. When declaring your expenses, be sure to attach receipts, bank statements, and credit card statements that can show the court you are being truthful. Make sure you also list all sources of income clearly, including assets and income earned from self-employment.

Divorce Income and Expense Declaration Example

In our opinion, the Income and Expense Declaration is the most important document in all of Family Law. There is no doubt in the Family Law community that the Income and Expense Declaration is the most cross-examined document in divorce proceedings. At trial or in a hearing, attorneys can and do spend hours going line by line and questioning you about everything you write on your Income and Expense Declaration. And if you are not careful, your answers can crush your side of the case in many, many ways.

In a recent example, our firm’s Founding Attorney, Doug Pinkham, won a trial in which spousal support and attorney’s fees and costs were involved. He represented Dad, who was inarguably the main breadwinner of the family, as he had a job that earned him a very good wage. None of this was ever in question.

However, Mom also had income. She ran her own small business. It had very low overhead, with the only real costs being labor and advertising. Mom’s business was also a cash-heavy business, meaning most of her customers paid in cash.

Dad helped Mom with her business sometimes during their marriage, mostly just as a body to transport items from location to location. For years, he watched her take in cash every month. In fact, they often used that cash to go out to dinner, put gas in their cars, and shop for groceries. Because she ran the business, Dad did not inquire too deeply into her business or exactly how much cash was typically earned. Dad was never involved in the financial aspects of her business, but he estimated that Mom earned about $5,000.00 cash per month from her business, after expenses, mostly in cash. This was due to the amount of cash he saw her bring home, and how she would have cash in her hand for household expenses and treats.

Because Mom ran her own business, she filed a Schedule C on her taxes, first on their joint taxes with Dad and then on her separate taxes after they separated. Her Schedule C’s would only list that she earned about a couple thousand dollars at most for an entire year. She would take in tens of thousands of dollars gross, but then had tens of thousands of dollars in “expenses” which would greatly reduce her “income” from her business.

When Mom was drafting her Income and Expense Declarations during the divorce process, she would write that she earned only a couple hundred dollars per month from her business, at most. At first, Mom did not attach any Schedule C’s from her tax returns nor prepare and attach any Profit and Loss Statements to her Income and Expense Declaration. This is contrary to the requirements of California law, which states that if you have your own business, you must attach a Schedule C or a Profit & Loss Statement to your Income and Expense Declaration to prove your income from your business. Lastly, she had no backup receipts or invoices showing any of her figures.

After Mr. Pinkham cross examined her for several hours regarding her lack of documentation and her “made-up” figures, and pointed out that Mom was missing those required documents that are supposed to be attached to her Income and Expense Declaration, Mom, upon being ordered to produce them by the judge, began to “create” those Profit and Loss Statements. However, her Profit and Loss Statements always denominated both profits and expenses in whole dollar amounts, with no pennies. As anyone knows, it is very rare that the expense of anything comes in full dollar amounts with no pennies involved, including electric bills and advertising costs. What is wrong with this? Well, the very best case scenario, she was rounding up or down to the nearest dollar, which is technically lying about the numbers in court. And at worst, she was completely manufacturing those figures and they had nothing to do with her “real” income or expenses.  Mr. Pinkham made this perfectly clear to the judge at trial.

The second point was that Mom’s Profit and Loss Statements did not match her Schedule C’s. Her gross profits were not the same, her expenses did not add up to the same amount declared on her tax returns, and her net profits were all different. And, a look through Mom’s bank statements showed much more cash being deposited than she was declaring in either her Profit and Loss Statements or her Schedule C’s.  In fact, none of the figures on any of her documents seemed to jive with other figures on the other documents that were discovered throughout the case. 

Yet despite this, Mom continued to plead poverty, saying that she spent 40 hours a week working at a job that earned her significantly less than minimum wage. At trial, Mom asked that Dad not only pay her spousal support, but also contribute to her attorney’s fees and costs based on her poverty.

At trial, Mr. Pinkham cross-examined Mom on her California Income and Expense Declaration FL-150 for hours. He asked her about the amount of monthly income she listed and compared them to her Profit and Loss Statements. He then went through her tax returns and compared those to the FL-150 and Profit and Loss Statements, specifically her Schedule Cs, and had her also compare those numbers with her bank statements, and finally, Mr. Pinkham compared all those figures to those she had listed on her Income and Expense Declarations and demonstrated to the Court how none of those numbers matched at all, that none of her figures were credible.  

Mr. Pinkham was able to get testimony from Mom where she admitted that she did not keep any books on her business. She did not keep track of how much money came in nor how much money went out. Mom even admitted that she had no receipts to prove her expenses, thereby admitting that she made up the expense figures and which means she lied under oath. Mom could not even explain how she came up with the expenses she was claiming on her Schedule C’s. All she would say is that she did not earn $5,000.00 per month from her business but could not explain why she would continue working a small business that earned her less than minimum wage.

In the end, the Court found that Mom was not a credible witness and that she provided inaccurate Income and Expense Declarations throughout the divorce. Not only did the Court deny Mom spousal support and any contribution by Dad for her attorney’s fees and costs, but the Court in fact also ordered that Mom pay Dad $20,000.00 as sanctions, because the Court found that if Mom had been truthful in her Income and Expense Declarations and other financial documents, there would not have been a need for trial.

Entire books can be written about the California Family Law Form FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration. This is just one example of why it is so important for your Income and Expense Declaration to be as accurate as possible, particularly if you are self-employed.

Ask a Lawyer for Help with Income and Expense Declaration Form FL-150

The assistance of an attorney can be vital to defending your interests in a divorce matter. If you feel you need assistance in your divorce, or just have questions regarding your matter, or you know someone that needs help in their divorce case, do not hesitate to call us at Pinkham & Associates, APLC for a free consultation.

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If you are ready to hire an experienced and dedicated divorce and family law attorney in Orange County, California, call Pinkham & Associates now to speak to Doug Pinkham personally. Your initial consultation is free, and we will be happy to provide some free legal advice and help you determine whether we are indeed the right family law firm to represent you.