Many divorces are downright nasty, especially if a lot of money is on the line. A high-earning spouse isn’t exactly happy to hand over his assets to his soon-to-be ex, especially if they live in a Community Property State that requires couples to equally split their marital estate.
Hiding assets during a divorce is more common than you might think, and we’ve written a few articles here at WIFE about how to
Hiding assets during a divorce is more common than you might think, and we’ve written a few articles here at WIFE about how to find out if your spouse is hiding assets. What happens if you discover that your ex hid assets after your divorce is complete? Can you still make your ex pay up?
Try to Find Hidden Assets During the Divorce Process
It will be much easier to search for hidden assets during the divorce process itself rather than going back after the fact to try to recoup what you deserve. If you even suspect the possibility that your spouse could be hiding assets during your divorce, then start searching.
It might be a good idea to hire a private investigator and/or a forensic accountant to look for anomalies in your spouse’s declarations and financial paperwork. Your divorce attorney can also petition the court to compel your spouse to hand over documents, such as retirement statements and pay stubs.
What to Do If You Discover Hidden Assets After a Divorce
Of course, you can’t always catch your spouse in the act of hiding assets. Sometimes the truth only comes out later. Maybe a mutual friend mentions a second home your ex owns that you never knew about, or you find out your ex-spouse was making a much higher salary than he claimed. In an article for MarketWatch, writer Quentin Fottrell mentions the story of a California woman who won $1.3 million in the lottery in 1996.
She filed for divorce 11 days later and conveniently forgot to mention the huge windfall to her spouse! Unsurprisingly, her ex-spouse found out about it two years later, and he wasn’t happy about it. The judge wasn’t either, and awarded the entire sum to the spouse.
If you discover that your spouse hid assets during your divorce, your legal options may depend on which state you live in. If you live in a Community Property State (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and possibly Alaska) you can file a motion with the court where your divorce was finalized to reopen the case. Since you were entitled to half of your spouse’s community property at the time of your divorce, you may be able to amend your divorce agreement to take into account the newly discovered assets or income.
It is more difficult to reopen a divorce case if you did not divorce in a Community Property State, but that doesn’t mean you are out of options. You can always sue your spouse for monetary damages in civil court.
Will Your Spouse Be Punished for Hiding Assets?
Judges have a lot of leeway when it comes to determining a punishment for spouses who hide assets. It may be that if you can compellingly prove that your spouse hid assets, the judge will simply order your spouse to give your half of the value of those assets to you. This is what you would have gotten if the assets had been known during the time of the divorce. Of course, some judges like to add a little sting to their rulings against shady spouses.
A judge can make your spouse hand over the entire value of the hidden assets to you as a punishment, such as what happened in the case of the woman who hid her lottery winnings from her spouse. If she had been upfront about her windfall, she would have only had to hand over half of it to her spouse. (One more reason why you should never, ever try to hide assets from your spouse during a divorce!)
In the most serious cases, a spouse can even be arrested for hiding assets, though this is usually a last-resort scenario when an ex-spouse still refuses to pay up even after it’s been proven that he hid assets.
If you can, try to find evidence of hidden assets during your divorce, but even if you find out that your ex lied to you years after the fact, you can still go after the money you are owed. Don’t let your ex keep money that you are entitled to!
Want to know what other curveballs you can expect during a divorce? Learn from professionals who deal with divorces every day at your local Second Saturday Divorce Workshop.