Imagine for a moment that you’re seriously considering divorce. You suddenly remember you have a substantial bonus coming up at work. You’re already angry and resentful after years of accumulated frustrations with your spouse. You know the divorce itself can be expensive. Can you think of creative ways so that your bonus isn’t considered as part of your marital assets? What if you transfer the money to your mother’s account?
Let’s nip that idea in the bud. As unfair as you might think it would be to have to divide your assets down the middle, the consequences of hiding resources are serious.
It compromises your credibility
When you go through a traditional divorce process, you have to produce a long list of financial documents. If you fail to disclose assets in efforts to hide them, your spouse will probably notice; and consequently his or her attorney will work to expose your dishonesty. For example, through discovery, your spouse could request additional financial documents, or subpoena your employment records. His or her attorney could depose you. As a result, if your spouse can establish that you intentionally misstated information, you will be pegged as untrustworthy. Hardly the label you want to have associated with you in a legal proceeding.
It exposes you to penalties
It is common for a party in a divorce proceeding to petition the court for sanctions on the other party for wrongdoing. And hiding assets definitely counts as a wrongdoing. Spare yourself the hardship or embarrassment of having to pay penalties for something you could have prevented.
It may result in inequitable distribution
In addition to monetary sanctions, a judge could award the other spouse a larger share than what you would get, when taking into account any assets that you might have spent somewhere else in bad faith.
You could be held liable for perjury
Here’s another red flag to stay away from. When you produce your financial records, you are affirming that what you’ve disclosed is true. When you are deposed or testify in court, you are giving sworn testimony. Lying under oath will expose you to additional sanctions and possibly even jail time.
The Florida Statutes are clear on what constitutes equitable distribution. Don’t ever think that you’re above the law.
If you believe there’s a possibility of sitting down with your spouse to attempt to reach a settlement agreement without the usual ugly court battles associated with divorce, contact a family law attorney to look into the collaborative divorce process. By discussing your available options to safeguard your interests, you may allay your fears about receiving less than what you deserve.
Follow Open Palm Law to learn more about the collaborative divorce process and how it can help you!
About this week’s authors: Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as professor in law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.