Why Do I Have to Give My Payroll Stubs to My Divorce Attorney?

By Beverly Bird

Divorces revolve around two important issues: your children and your finances. Your pay stubs can affect both. Judges and attorneys won’t take your word for it regarding how much you earn. They’ll want proof to ensure that your children receive an appropriate amount of child support, and to calculate spousal support, if applicable. Your pay stubs provide irrefutable confirmation that your income is what you say it is.

Informing Your Attorney

Your attorney must be in a position to protect your interests. He can do this only if he has a full understanding of how much you earn. By reviewing your pay stubs on a regular basis, he can get a handle on the frequency of overtime you might receive and mandatory deductions from your paycheck in addition to taxes. He can use this knowledge, and the proof of your stubs, if your spouse’s attorney tries to use a higher income than you legitimately earn when calculating either alimony or child support. Your attorney will probably ask you to supply your pay stubs on a regular basis as your case progresses, so he’s aware immediately of any changes you might not think are important enough to mention.

Financial Statements

Every state requires that you file a financial statement with the court early on in your divorce proceedings. The exact format varies somewhat from state to state, but always includes a recitation of your income, budget, assets and liabilities. If your case goes to trial, a judge will refer to your statement and that of your spouse when determining issues of property distribution, spousal support and child support. Most states require that you attach copies of your pay stubs, as well as income tax returns, to your statement to substantiate the information you’ve entered.

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In a contested divorce, both your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer will spend several months exchanging financial information in a process called discovery. This helps them to potentially negotiate a settlement for you and save you the cost of an expensive trial. If your case does go to trial, they'll provide this documentation to the judge. If you don’t supply your pay stubs willingly, your spouse’s attorney can legally subpoena them directly from your employer.

Calculating Child Support

Courts calculate child support based on both parents’ incomes, usually after taxes and other mandatory deductions. If you’re the custodial parent, the lower your income is, the more child support you will generally receive. If you are the non-custodial parent, the higher your income is, the more child support you will pay. Your pay stubs ensure that the court gets your income right. If you don't provide pay stubs, the court will impute income to you. This means the judge will calculate child support on what he thinks you should earn for the work you do.

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Income Discovery in Family Law Cases


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