While attempting to hide assets in a divorce case is not commonplace, it happens more often than you might imagine. As an attorney I would never advise a client to attempt to hide assets nor would I help them in their efforts to do so. Aside from the legal and ethical issues, it is simple wrong and not something I am willing to do.
Hidden Assets Tend to be Found
I have had cases on both sides of the issue. I have discovered assets that my client’s spouse was attempting to hide and I have discovered assets that my own client was attempting to hide. When I explain to my client how easy it was for me to uncover the asset and how the other attorney is likely to find it just as easily, the client usually becomes much more reasonable about disclosing all assets.
Here is an interesting article on the consequences of hiding assets in a divorce in Forbes.
Would Someone Really Hide Their Separate Property
I once had a client who was attempting to hide a significant asset that I came across while reviewing the financial records. When I asked him about it and explained that we would need to disclose the asset or he would ultimately run the risk of being held in contempt by the court and potentially prosecuted for perjury, he remained steadfast that he didn’t want to disclose it. Only when I threatened to withdraw as his attorney did he relent. When we discussed the asset further, it turns out he owned it pre-marriage making it his separate property. In other words, he was putting himself at grave risk to hide an asset that was 100% his anyway. Very foolish…
What are the Lessons?
So there are two big lessons about hiding assets. One, don’t do it. Even if you feel you have a rock solid ethical argument for way it is simply not fair that your spouse should be entitled to any of the asset, resist the temptation. It is simply not worth it. Second, if you have a legitimate concern that your spouse may be hiding asset(s), let your attorney know so that they may take the necessary steps to locate any hidden assets. While there is more work (and thus more cost) involved with this, it is worth it to know whether you are getting your fair share of the community.
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