When you file a divorce action, you should be prepared to make full financial disclosures. You must disclose all of your assets as well as all income streams. Both sides will be required to sign the financial disclosures and swear under oath that they are complete and accurate.
So, what happens if it is discovered during the discovery phase (evidence gathering) that your spouse intentionally omitted certain financial information? Each case is unique, but the family law judge has a wide range of discretion in deciding what punishment to impose.
The penalties for hiding assets in a divorce case can vary, but it often includes the guilty spouse receiving a smaller portion of the marital property, as well as being ordered to pay the innocent spouse’s attorney fees. In some instances, the innocent party may be awarded the assets that were being hidden. It is possible for the guilty party to face criminal charges for contempt of court and perjury, which can result in jail time.
What if the hidden assets are discovered after the divorce has been finalized? Some states provide that you can re-open a divorce case if you later discover that your spouse failed to make full financial disclosures. This measure is intended to prevent this type of fraud because the dishonest spouse has no protection for the illegal activity even after a final divorce decree has been entered.
Finally, it must be pointed out that once the judge discovers you have been attempting to hide assets, you will have lost all credibility with the court for the remainder of your case. You will be viewed as the “bad guy” and your spouse will be the victim. You do not want this viewpoint to be carried over into other areas of your divorce such as determinations regarding child custody, visitation, and spousal support.
It is normal to feel the temptation to hide money or assets when you are facing divorce. However, the consequences if you get caught outweigh any potential benefit. Simply put, it is not worth the risk. Remember, your spouse’s attorney has likely been handling divorces for a long time and is very familiar with the tactics people use to hide assets. It is likely that you will get caught.
Contact the knowledgeable attorneys at the Men’s Divorce Law Firm. Our office is located in Orlando, Florida, but we proudly serve husbands and fathers across the State.