Chances are that if you’ve thought about getting a divorce, you’ve probably also thought about how it will affect you financially. If money is already tight, the expenses associated with divorce can be more than a little worrisome. You may find it tempting to hide away money from your spouse in order to have a little nest egg once the divorce is finalized. But it’s important to remember that this is not only unethical, but also illegal. So what is the penalty for hiding assets in divorce?
Understanding the Legal Consequences of Hiding Assets
Spouses hiding assets from one another is surprisingly common. In fact, the National Endowment for Financial Education reports that nearly one-third of all couples with combined assets engage in deceptive behavior with money. And men are much more likely to hide money than women are. But while hiding money from a spouse during a marriage is dishonest, doing it during a divorce will cost you greatly.
During the divorce process, you will be ordered to sign a financial affidavit. In this document, both of your joint assets are outlined so that the court can divide them fairly. Signing that affidavit means that you’re agreeing to all the information in it to the best of your knowledge. Thus, hiding assets is a direct violation of civil law, which means you are committing perjury.
What Happens When Either Party Lies Under Oath?
Lying while under oath is considered an act of contempt to the court. Consequences of doing so typically vary from state to state, and sometimes even district to district. California judges can freely decide on the final penalty.
Let’s take a look at this famous example:
Right before filing for divorce, a woman in California won the state lottery of $1.3 million. Wanting to keep all that money to herself, she failed to disclose her winnings in the financial affidavit. When the presiding judge figured out what the woman had done, he ordered that all her winnings go to the husband.
In that example above, following California’s community property state policy, which means couples must divide their assets evenly, the woman could have walked away with about $750,000. Instead, she walked away with nothing.
What If I Think My Spouse Is Hiding Money From Me?
Here are a few signs to look out for if you suspect your spouse is hiding money from you:
- More frequent withdrawals from the ATM
- Big write-offs from business accounts
- Irregularities on taxes
- More frequent travels for business
Unfortunately, you cannot simply relay your suspicions to the court. You must have evidence of your spouse’s deception. Consider hiring a private investigator to help you obtain proof. In addition, you will need an effective legal advocate on your side.