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Determining a Spouse’s Income in a Rhode Island Divorce

There are a number of important issues that need to be addressed when a couple makes the decision to get a divorce in Rhode Island. If the couple has children, then decisions need to be made regarding the custody of those children, as well as any child support obligations. There are many financial issues that also need to be addressed, including division of assets, division of property, and division of marital debt. In some divorces, the court may order one spouse to pay the other spousal support.

The majority of these issues are based on how much income each of the spouses earns. Child support is one example. Each state has its own laws regarding how child support is calculated. Rhode Island family courts use an income shares model. With this type of calculation, the court begins with the gross income of each parent. This is why it is critical to know what the actual income of both parents is.

Each parent is allowed to take mandatory deductions from their gross income, such as the cost of childcare, health insurance, and child support obligations for other children the parent may have. The court may also allow deductions for other costs, such as any significant medical expenses or retirement benefits.

The balance after all deductions are taken is called the adjusted gross income (AGI). The total sum of both parents’ AGI is referred to as the combined monthly income. This total, along with the number of children the couple have, will determine the amount of the monthly child support payments based on the Rhode Island Child Support Guideline Schedule.

Spousal support, or alimony, is another example where knowing the exact income of each spouse is crucial. Rhode Island doesn't have a mathematical formula when it comes to calculating how much spousal support should be paid. Instead, it is up to the discretion of the judge who is overseeing the divorce case, unless the couple had a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement that specifies if and how much spousal support would be paid.

When determining whether one spouse should pay the other alimony, the judge will consider the age of the lower-earning spouse, their health, occupation, and their income.

Sharing Financial Information

During the divorce process, both spouses will be required to provide to the court a financial affidavit that shows all of their income, assets, and debts. These affidavits are made under penalty of perjury. There is also the discovery phase of the divorce where each party can request information from each other through interrogatories, depositions, requests for documents, and subpoenas. One of the goals of discovery is to determine what the other spouse’s income is.

The following are all sources of income that each spouse must report to the court:

  • Salaries, wages, and tips
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Income from a business or self-employment
  • Military pay (including any allotments and allowances)
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Pensions
  • Annuities
  • Social Security benefits
  • Disability benefits
  • Rental income
  • Trust disbursements
  • Winnings from gambling or prizes

Hidden Income?

It is not uncommon for a spouse to try to downplay their income to the court if they are the spouse who will be responsible for child support and/or alimony. The spouse may even begin taking steps to hide their income before telling their spouse they want a divorce. It is not uncommon for a spouse to begin planning for a divorce long before they actually tell their spouse they want to end their marriage.

If you suspect your spouse may be planning a divorce – or maybe you are the spouse who wants to end the marriage – it can be crucial to your case to obtain copies of all financial documents while you still have access to them. This includes income taxes, bank and other financial statements, pensions, and any other documents you feel are pertinent. Even if you are not yet ready to file for divorce, it can be very helpful to meet with a divorce attorney at this time who can advise you on what type of information and evidence you should gather.

Even if you don’t get an opportunity to get these documents beforehand, your attorney still has legal options to help determine if your spouse is hiding income or assets from you, including hiring a forensic accountant to examine your spouse’s financial history.

Let Our Legal Team Help

If you have made the decision to end your marriage, a Rhode Island divorce attorney from Kirshenbaum Law Associates, Inc. can help navigate you through the divorce process, including negotiations, depositions, and litigation.

To learn more, call Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300 for a confidential consultation.