South Carolina Family Court Rule 20 requires that a current Financial Declaration must be filed whenever the financial condition of a party is relevant or is an issue to be considered by the Court, which as you might imagine covers the overwhelming majority of cases, including divorce, separation, child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, contempt, etc. This document includes detailed information about a wide range of financial issues, including income, expenses, assets, and debts. What happens if a Financial Declaration is wrong, either due to a mistake or a lie?
Financial Declarations are technically affidavits, which should highlight why it's so important that they be filled out properly. Because they are signed under oath, your signature verifies that you are swearing that the information provided is true to the best of your knowledge.
So what if you make a simple mistake, such as listing a wrong amount, forgetting to include a bank account, etc.? These types of mistakes can (and do) occur from time to time. If the mistake was unintentional, you should immediately alert the Court and the opposing party to your mistake and immediately file an updated, corrected Financial Declaration.
On the other hand, intentional errors or omissions can carry the potential for serious punishment if you are found out. Remember, you signed the document under oath that the information was accurate to the best of your knowledge. A blatant lie can be deemed perjury, which is a serious crime and can lead to correspondingly serious punishment.
Punishment can vary widely depending on the facts and circumstances that led to the erroneous information being included on the Financial Declaration. On the easy end, it is possible a judge might simply slap you on the wrist, making note of the error, but otherwise moving on. At the toughest end of the punishment spectrum, it is possible that you could be prosecuted for perjury, which could potentially lead to jail time in especially serious cases.
Lessons to learn
There are two important lessons that you should take away from this discussion. First, it is extremely important that you make sure that all of the information included on your Financial Declaration is accurate. Many attorneys (including our firm) provide forms and worksheets to assist their clients in compiling the necessary information to prepare the Financial Declaration.
Finally, it is equally important that you verify that all of the information included on the opposing party's Financial Declaration is accurate. Your attorney should discuss with you the importance of independently verifying the other party's financial information in certain cases and the steps that can be taken to do so.