What Happens When a Spouse Is Caught Hiding Assets in a Divorce?

Hiding Assets

If you are going through a divorce, you might feel that you need to protect yourself by hiding assets from your spouse. There are several major reasons why you shouldn’t resort to this, not the least of which is that it is illegal to knowingly not disclose any assets to your spouse’s lawyers.

It is important to remember that when you disclose your financial information to the court, you are making a sworn statement under oath. If they find out that you were hiding assets, this can be the same as perjuring yourself or lying under oath.

Under California Penal Code Section 118, willfully giving false information when testifying in court or on a signed affidavit is considered perjury. If you are found guilty of committing perjury, you could be sentenced to up to a year in county jail or 4 years in state prison. The judge could also assign punitive financial penalties such as covering all of the court costs, any private investigator costs that might have been accrued to track down the hidden assets, and even fines.

There are no legal means that can be used to hide assets from a spouse during a divorce. It is also highly unlikely that you can come up with a way to hide anything that your spouse’s attorney hasn’t seen before. After all, it’s their job to find it.

Another issue is credibility. If it is discovered that you have knowingly submitted false information to the court, the judge may view anything that you claim as unreliable and require that all of your information be audited at your expense. Your spouse’s attorney will also have grounds to challenge anything that you claim because you’ve set the precedent that your word can’t be trusted.

The same holds true for incorrectly reporting the value of a known asset. Attorneys are looking for these as well, and misrepresenting the value of an asset is treated the same as not reporting it at all.

Even if you manage to successfully hide assets during the divorce proceedings, you’re not out of the woods. Even after the divorce is finalized, if your former spouse finds out that you’ve managed to hide assets, he or she can have the file reopened and any support payments and asset divisions revisited.

For example: In 1996, a woman won the $1.3 million California state lottery, hid the winning ticket, and then only 11 days later, divorced her husband of 25 years. During the divorce proceedings, she failed to disclose the lottery winnings. Almost 3 years later, her secret was discovered. According to the Los Angeles Times, the judge ruled that she had committed fraud by violating the asset disclosure laws and awarded her ex-husband the entire $1.3 million in lottery winnings.

At the end of the day, attempting to hide or misrepresent assets during a divorce comes with a huge risk of losing much more than what you were hoping to hide in the first place. The best solution is to get a family law attorney and be totally honest with him or her on what assets you have. We will guide you through your options to make sure you are compliant with the California divorce process.

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The experienced legal professionals at the Law Offices of Kayleene H. Writer are dedicated exclusively to California family and divorce law and are here to work for you. Give us a call today at (949) 353-6151 to discuss your divorce and your options.