Amid a divorce, it’s not uncommon for spouses to want to protect their assets. But, what exactly are assets? During a marriage, a couple accumulates certain things – a shared home, furniture, pets, household goods – but what people often don’t realize is that assets include much more than the items listed above.
Below are the different types of assets a divorcing couple may find themselves eager to protect:
- Credit cards
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Vacation timeshares
- Tax refunds
- Travel rewards/points
- Burial plots
- And more
As noted above, the list of marital assets you or your soon-to-be former spouse may want to protect is extensive. This is why it may be tempting for divorcing couples to try and hide some of their assets in an effort to not share them with their former partner. While it may be tempting, hiding marital assets in a divorce is never acceptable. Learn more about this below.
The Division Of Property
Shared marital property is divided into at least one of two different ways. The first method of dividing property involves making sure both parties get half of the belongings that were accumulated throughout the duration of the marriage. These items may include vehicles, credit cards and the house (to name a few). Although couples do have this option, there are only a few states across the country that follow through with this specific method. States that utilize this method of property division include Texas, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Louisiana, California, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona. Pennsylvania, however, opts for the second method – equitable distribution.
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court can allocate marital property as they deem appropriate.
Equitable distribution, while determined by the court, is dependent on certain factors. These include but are not limited to:
- The length of the marriage
- Which spouse (if they have children) will have custody
- Each spouse’s age, income and employability
- The standard of living each spouse was accustomed to
- And more
One of the most important pieces of information to remember is that Pennsylvania courts do not consider who is at fault for the dissolution of the marriage when determining who gets what. Equitable distribution is not only commonly used in the state of Pennsylvania, but is often the preferred method for divorcing couples.
Click here for our in-depth article on how it is decided where the house goes in a divorce.
Why People Try To Hide Their Assets
There are a few different reasons why many people attempt to hide their assets from the other person they were married to. They might be afraid that they will lose out on a lot of money that they earned while they were married to their spouses. Some people may feel like their former spouse does not deserve to receive certain assets based on their actions. For example, if one spouse was cheated on during the marriage, he or she may feel like they have the right to hide certain assets from their partner because that person treated them poorly and did not take their marriage vows seriously. Some individuals may want to underreport their earnings in an effort to not pay or lower the amount they owe in child support or alimony. Regardless of the situation, it is unacceptable to hide marital assets – and doing so yields certain implications.
Providing Honest Disclosures and the Consequences of Falsifying Information
Most spouses will need to provide honest disclosures about their finances to one another. These disclosures would include details about the income they regularly earn, along with any debts they have, property they own, and additional assets that belong to them. When the forms are not completed with accurate information, a judge could decide to punish certain individuals by making certain judgments and rulings that would keep them from holding on to certain assets.
If a spouse is caught hiding assets, they may be subject to paying their share of the assets to the spouse they attempted to hide them from. In some cases, those who are caught hiding assets may be subject to fines and even jail time. It all comes down to the circumstances of your case.
How To Tell If Someone Has Hidden Assets
While it is not always possible to know for sure if someone is hiding certain assets, there are a few signs to be aware of. Someone who is trying to hide assets may have recently opened a new bank account or started renting out a storage unit. The individual could use the storage unit to store away certain belongings that he or she does not want the former spouse to have access to.
Additionally, individuals who are attempting to hide assets may indulge in the following activities:
- Reporting false expenses and/or lower income
- Exaggerating the debts they owe
- Loaning money out to a friend or relative
Just like it is not easy to know if someone is hiding their assets, it is sometimes a challenge to find those assets that are being hidden. If a person is suspicious about their former partner, they could use a search engine to look up their name and gather any information they might be able to find. Former spouses may also use social media and even hire a private investigator if need be. If you are in this situation and feel like your former partner has assets that are being hidden to keep you from them, you need to hire a lawyer right away.
How a Lawyer Can Help if Your Spouse is Hiding Assets
The discovery process is often where your lawyer can determine if assets are being hidden. During the discovery process, both you and your divorcing spouse will be asked to bring forth various documents such as pay stubs, the deed to the house, retirement information, bank statements and more. If your soon-to-be spouse does not provide these documents, your attorney can subpoena them to do so.
Your lawyer may also choose to have your spouse deposed, which means they will have to testify under oath. Lying under oath can result in hefty fines and even jail time.
When you’ve decided you’re ready to get divorced and move forward with your life, it’s important to have an experienced attorney by your side who can help you navigate the process. If you believe your spouse is hiding assets or attempting to do so, you have rights. The skilled family law attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg, and Gifford, P.C. can help.
Contact a Colmar Family Law Attorney For A Consultation About Divorce In Pennsylvania Today
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The Pennsylvania family law attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg, and Gifford, P.C. represent clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Colmar, Lansdale, Newtown and Lower Bucks County. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at 215-822-7575 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 2605 N. Broad St. Colmar, PA 18915 as well as an office located in Newtown, PA.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.