Divorce Law Firm
When you are in the process of divorcing your spouse, the temptation can be overwhelming to not be entirely truthful in disclosing all of your assets. You may feel that he or she does not deserve them, or that you are more morally entitled to retain the entirety of a bank account or pension fund. Do not give into this temptation; the penalties for being found out far outweigh any possible chance you might succeed in your endeavor.
Is It Common?
One might wonder how many people actually go so far as to hide assets. Research has shown that three in 10 Americans admit to some sort of untruthfulness with their partner about financial matters, whether it was outright lying or hiding, or simply softening the truth. More men than women historically hide assets, but of course, any spouse may be tempted, especially if they are the primary breadwinner.
There are specific rules governing financial discovery that must be complied with. If you receive, for example, a bequest of $500, that money is your own asset – not a marital asset. But if you deposit the money in you and your spouse’s joint bank account, it becomes an asset of the marital estate, because you have put it in a place where your spouse may have equal access to it.
If, despite the law, you decide to go ahead and conceal assets, the penalties can be very severe. In most states, it can be a crime – most often, perjury or fraud – or a civil penalty like contempt of court. If the hiding is egregious, it may be both.
When you sign the financial affidavits you have completed during discovery, or testify in a deposition, for example, you are swearing that the information you are providing is true. If it is not, you are lying under oath, which is the definition of perjury. Most states tend to take a stern approach to those who commit perjury in divorce proceedings, and it is fairly common precedent for attorney’s fees and sanctions to be awarded in cases where it occurs.
Another possibility if you are caught hiding assets is for the court to hold that it is equitable – in other words, fair – if you lose the entirety of that asset. Generally, if you and your spouse cannot agree on a property distribution, the court will distribute all marital assets equitably, although not necessarily in an equal manner. For example, if you are the breadwinner, your spouse may receive some of your assets because he or she lacks the capacity to make as much money as you do. If you hide assets, it can be imputed that you cannot agree on a distribution plan, so the court will step in. Both as a punitive measure, and to restore fairness to the settlement, you may lose that asset if the judge feels it is fair for you to do so.
Get an Attorney on Your Side
If you suspect your spouse of hiding assets, it may be more than you can handle alone. A divorce law firm is here for you, with experienced, knowledgeable family law attorneys who are willing and able to assist with your case.