Divorce is complicated when you have all the facts, but it is even more complicated when you do not. Your spouse may have taken care of the finances throughout the marriage, and now you may not feel confident that you know key facts necessary for an equitable divorce. Adding to the confusion, some spouses try to hide assets during divorce proceedings. How can you know whether or not your spouse is honestly presenting you with all of your assets?
People can hide assets in a number of different ways. Here are some of the common ways that your spouse may try to hide assets:
- Making and concealing expensive purchases
- Transferring funds to their friends’ or family members’ accounts
- Hiding physical assets in a safety deposit box
- Securing assets in a secret bank account
- Deliberately overpaying creditors or under-reporting income on tax forms
- Creating false lines of debt
You need to uncover hidden assets to ensure that you gain access to the assets you have a right to. There are several different ways that you and your lawyer can gain information from your spouse, and uncover your financial reality.
During the divorce process, you will exchange financial information and documents with your spouse during a period of “discovery”. Determine which assets are shared, and which assets are separate. Examine key financial documents, tax returns, bank account information and retirement account information to make sure that you have a clear understanding of your financial standing.
During “document production” you present all documents that pertain to the divorce. Both parties have a right to see any document that relates to the marriage, finance or divorce. Take advantage of this opportunity to get comfortable with your financial standing. Ask questions about anything that surprises you or does not match your expectations.
- Interrogatories: If you are worried that you still do not have a clear picture of your assets, debts and income, consider utilizing “interrogatories.” These give you the opportunity to formally question your spouse about a specific issue. Your spouse must provide you with a written response under oath. Unfair questions can be objected to by opposing counsel.
- Requests for admission. “Requests for admission” are rarely used, but can be an effective means for determining key information. You can ask your spouse to admit or deny key facts relating to the divorce. They will be penalized for any false answers, refusing to answer or delaying an answer.
- Depositions. You and your spouse can also be deposed. When you are deposed, you must answer statements under oath. Everything that you say is recorded.
It may take a while for you to feel confident that you have an accurate picture of your assets, debts and incomes. Be patient, and work closely with your attorney to ensure that your legal rights are being protected. Your spouse cannot legally conceal any assets from you. You have every right to full disclosure.