Hiding assets during divorce is a major problem – and if you’re caught doing so (or if your ex is caught doing so), you’ll face big problems in court. Here’s what you need to know.
Hiding Assets During Divorce
When your marriage is ending, your spouse may decide to hide some of his or her assets so you can’t get them. That’s because property in California falls under specific categories – it can be community property or separate property (and in some cases, it’s a hybrid of both).
If you weren’t active in your family’s finances, or if you aren’t up-to-speed on your spouse’s income, it may be fairly easy for him or her to hide assets during your divorce. Some spouses do this so they don’t have to share – but doing so is more than unethical. It’s illegal.
During a divorce, you must both file forms with the court that truthfully disclose all your assets. That includes bank account balances, real estate and other types of income, such as pay and support from previous relationships. If you fail to do so, or if you lie on the forms, you could be held in contempt of court or be charged with perjury.
Sometimes the value of an asset isn’t obvious without an appraisal, and in cases like those, it’s sometimes easier for a spouse to “devalue” them. That happens when one spouse says something is worth less than it really is in an attempt to share less of its worth with the other spouse. The courts don’t allow this, and in many cases, judges require professional appraisals on things that could be intentionally devalued (like houses, jewelry, businesses and other high-dollar assets). Nobody is allowed to deliberately devalue an asset for the purpose of defrauding the court.
Related: The division of property in divorce
Why Do Some People Hide Assets During Divorce?
Usually, people hide assets during divorce to prevent their spouses from getting a fair share. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell if your spouse is hiding assets. Usually, if you suspect that he or she is doing so, it’s your job to track them down so you get your fair share of the community property.
What Happens if You Hide Assets?
The judge in your case can hold you in contempt of court if you hide assets – or, even worse, charge you with perjury. Perjury is a crime, and it involves deliberately giving false information while under oath. You’re subject to prosecution for perjury if you’re testifying in court or being deposed, or if you signed an affidavit or declaration that contains information you know is false. Perjury is a felony, and it’s punishable by up to 4 years in California State Prison. It’s safe to say that perjury is something you should steer clear of, particularly when it comes to disclosing your assets during divorce. It’s just not worth the risk.
Where to Look for Hidden Assets During Divorce
If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, you can do a little detective work of your own. You should start by taking an inventory of your property – especially if you notice that things are disappearing from your home, like jewelry and other high-dollar items. Check for safety deposit box registrations, look in your home safe and see if you can find evidence that your spouse is investing money without your knowledge. Other than that, though, it can be difficult to tell if your spouse is squirrelling away things that belong to you – and you may need to work with a Stockton divorce attorney who has the resources necessary to help discover hidden assets.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer Because Your Spouse May Be Hiding Assets During Divorce?
If you suspect your spouse is – or will in the future – hide assets, it’s important that you get legal guidance. We may be able to help you, so call us today at (209) 546-6870 or get in touch with a Stockton divorce attorney online to schedule a consultation.