Financial disclosure is standard procedure in every divorce. Each divorcing party is required by law to list all income, assets, debts and expenses, and then sign an affidavit, swearing under penalty of perjury that the information given is complete and true. Full disclosure is vital for determining a fair division of debt and assets between spouses.
In most cases, both parties comply. But what if one spouse deliberately fails to disclose assets?
Affidavits are legal documents, and judges take a dim view of perjury. If the judge has reason to believe one party lied in order to keep more for him or herself or just to short-change their spouse, they may impose serious penalties, including:
- Ordering the offending spouse to pay attorney fees, and/or a fine
- Awarding the entire amount of the undisclosed asset(s) to the other spouse
In addition, the appearance of dishonesty results in loss of credibility with the judge, which could affect other issues in the case.
During a bitter divorce, if you believe that your spouse is engaged in deceptive practices, tell your attorney. An experienced lawyer, along with a certified divorce financial analyst, can help spot inconsistencies and uncover more information through the process of discovery.
During discovery, attorneys can ask questions about personal and business financial details. This may be done through written requests for documents, interrogatories and depositions. As this article in Forbes magazine illustrates, forensic accounting might reveal common tricks such as undervaluing property, overstating debts or expenses, and understating actual income. Other deceptive practices include stashing valuables in a secret safety deposit box or storage locker, “giving” cash or property to a friend during divorce proceedings, selling property for a price much lower than market value out of spite, and classifying personal expenses as business expenses.
Keep in mind that financial disclosure is an affirmative duty, meaning each party is required to reveal their full financial picture whether they are asked about it or not. It is never okay to keep any asset hidden simply because you were not asked.
Sometimes, a non-disclosure was simply an oversight. If you realize you inadvertently forgot to include a piece of property, investment or other asset, the best course of action is to immediately inform your attorney and submit an amended financial disclosure statement along with a new affidavit. An apology to the judge never hurts, either.
All of us here at Raza & Jones, LLC understand this is a challenging time for our clients. As a family law firm, under St. Louis County’s Order pertaining to COVID-19 we are considered an essential business, and we remain open and available to all our clients. Our entire firm is working remotely, using our videoconference account to meet with clients or speaking by telephone. We are committed to delivering the same high standard of compassionate, effective representation we are known for, in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Raza & Jones, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions, or to schedule a confidential consultation, call 314-449-8830.