The Dangers of Hidden Assets In Florida Divorces
Divorces aren’t fun, but most divorces – around 90 percent – are uncontested, with both parties eventually coming to an agreement. However, some people try to take advantage of their former spouse during the divorce process by obscuring their marital property through hidden assets – an unfair practice that leaves one person in a much worse financial situation than they should be.
If you are beginning divorce proceedings and suspect your former spouse of hiding assets, a St. Petersburg divorce attorney can help protect your financial future and rights during the divorce process. Contact The Bardine Law Firm today to talk to an attorney and learn how we can help you through this difficult process.
What Exactly Are Hidden Assets?
A hidden asset is anything that one spouse keeps hidden from judges, attorneys, and their former spouse instead of reporting it on the proper forms. Some assets – like a car, property, or business – are harder to hide, and they usually have easily discoverable documents and filings that establish ownership. However, a dishonest spouse has numerous potential avenues for obscuring marital property before a divorce is finalized. These include:
- Stocks, investments, bonds, and cryptocurrencies held in a secret account
- Physical stores of value, like jewelry, collectibles, and precious metals
- Traveler’s checks
- Payments of fake debts to friends or family
- Funding of financial accounts they control on behalf of someone else (minor children, elderly parents, etc.)
- Any other marital property, if not properly disclosed on forms
If someone opens accounts, makes purchases, or moves money without informing their spouse, the spouse might not have any indication that they should be looking for hidden assets during future divorce proceedings. Inform your divorce attorney of any inkling of suspicion you have, and they will assist you in determining if the other party hid any assets.
How Do Hidden Assets Affect the Distribution of Assets?
As we discussed at length in a recent blog post, Florida is an ‘equitable distribution’ state. In short, this means that you and your former spouse split marital property equitably, but this is not always 50/50. Judges use guidelines outlined in Florida statutes to help determine which property – and how much of it – is given to each party following a separation.
Hidden assets make this process unfair for one side. If a judge is unaware of substantial assets that one spouse keeps hidden, they will award them an unjust amount of marital property and accidentally shortchange the truthful party. A hidden asset does not necessarily have to be something that is physically hidden or kept in a secret place. As this process of asset distribution is only for marital property, misclassification of assets is just as prevalent.
How To Find Hidden Assets
A spouse that is obscuring assets is, by definition, not participating in the divorce process in good faith. Florida law requires both parties to submit financial documents under penalty of perjury during a divorce. Judges can also punish a dishonest party if their deception is discovered and award a higher share of marital property to the truthful party. However, despite all these dangers, many people go against the advice of their counsel and try to hold on to marital property through hidden assets.
Many people who hide assets during divorce are the ones who were in charge of most major financial decisions during the marriage. As a result, the other spouse, often called the “out spouse,” has little to no knowledge of or first-hand experience with jointly-owned assets.
An attorney’s first attempt to remedy this situation and start the asset discovery process will involve legal requests for copies of all relevant financial documentation of the marital property. These requests may be based on your former spouse’s financial disclosures and testimony/deposition.
Depending on how cooperative the other side is, your attorney may need to go before the court and ask for a court order that mandates your former spouse and their lawyers to comply. Judges can financially punish those who fail to comply with these discovery requests in a timely manner. Finding hidden assets isn’t easy, and it can require outside help from experts who track accounts and follow transaction history.
Contact A St. Petersburg Divorce Attorney Today
Most people aren’t willing to commit perjury and lie to a judge over a small amount of money. Your spouse may be hiding a large amount of assets that can significantly alter your financial future. Don’t go into this combative process alone.
At The Bardine Law Firm, Johnny Bardine knows how important collaborative divorce is; he also knows how to fight on behalf of his clients when the other party isn’t negotiating in good faith. If you are considering beginning divorce proceedings or suspect your former spouse of hiding assets, contact our firm today to speak with an attorney and protect your rights.