This is Todd Burnham, the Founding Partner of Burnham Law, and an experienced family law lawyer with a superb record. In this post, I will tell you what you can do to make sure you get your fair share of the marital assets.
What to Do If Your Spouse is Hiding Assets!
A marriage is a “legal, social, and religious institution” that two parties enter into in accordance with the law. There are many things that are involved in a marriage, such as forming a conjugal and family life, support for children, marital obligations, and matrimonial property.
Because marriage is a subject of legal concern, many laws regulate the different elements that come into a marriage union. One primary concern is the division or joining of assets of each spouse during the marriage.
According to law, most properties you acquire after marriage will be part of the marital or conjugal property of both spouses. This is regardless of whoever bought the property and under whose name it is registered. The law provides some exceptions to this general rule, such as if the property was given as a gift or an inheritance.
Hiding of Assets
In some instances, especially in financial disclosures in divorce proceedings, one spouse hides assets that belong to the marital property. Some commonly hidden assets include cash, stocks, bonds, and even tangible objects like jewelry. Hiding of assets can come in the form of the temporary transfer of ownership to friends, family, or a corporate entity, converting cash into assets, etc.
This is more common in divorce proceedings, and the motive behind it is simple. The goal is to take the asset for himself or herself and not subject it to the division of properties, so as not to benefit the soon-to-be ex-spouse.
What to do
It’s simpler to search for hidden assets during the divorce proceeding and before the final judgment. If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, you can consider hiring an investigator or forensic accountant to look into the statements immediately to search for anomalies. You can also request your divorce attorney to petition the court to compel the other spouse to submit financial documents to aid your search.
If you only discover the misrepresentation after the final judgment in your divorce proceeding, you will need to undergo a lengthy process to allege the fraud. It will then be much more difficult to retrieve what you are due.
If you have discovered that your spouse’s financial disclosure is not accurate after the final judgment, there are two frames that you want to be thinking of.
The first is to seek immediate judgment or relief, which you can request within 6 months of the date of the final court order. Here, you are alleging that your ex-spouse inadvertently or intentionally misrepresented the facts of the finances.
If the period of six months has already lapsed, you can seek relief through Rule 16.2E10. Under this rule, you have five years from the time of the final judgment to request for the reopening of the case alleging, among other things, the misrepresentation that took place.
Effects of a “hidden assets” case
In most instances, when the judge is convinced that the other spouse did hide assets, he or she will simply order the erring party to hand over half the value of the assets, which you are due.
In severe cases, the judge may punish the spouse who hid assets by compelling them to hand over the entire value for the benefit of the innocent spouse. The erring spouse may even be arrested, but this usually happens only if they refuse to give up the assets that have been proven to be hidden.
What you should do going into your case
As we always say at Burnham law. The best thing you can do is to be honest. As you’ve read, you could be penalized for trying to hide assets; it’s just not worth it. And if you suspect your ex-spouse is attempting to hide assets, let your lawyer know right away so that the two of you can get ahead of it and deal with the situation before the case closes and it becomes much more complicated.