It is not unheard of to discover that parties in a divorce lied about some important things. Divorce brings out the worse in even the most decent human beings. It’s almost as if the moment divorce discussions start, that the parties anticipate games of deception, defamation and trickery to ensue. Wives accuse husbands of hiding assets, while husbands accuse wives of making up allegations of abuse. Either way, there’s almost always a high level of pointing the finger and mistrust of each other and enjoy the hidden assets in divorce.
The Obligation to Disclose
All civil actions, including divorce, have what is called the “discovery phase”. Discovery is typically part of pre-trial stage of a case. It gives each side the opportunity to gather and acquire information to prepare for asserting or defending it’s position in trial. In addition, it helps to “level the playing field” so that each side has pertinent information to better negotiate settlement. During this phase the parties can request and exchange material information that has to do with the finances, assets, health and personal etc. Each party has an obligation to respond and has the right to demand answers to questions, to produce documents, to admit certain things and to be deposed. Failure to disclose can lead to punitive consequences in some cases.
Hiding Assets in Divorce vs. Refusing to Disclose
Some people think that merely refusing to disclose (or respond to discovery) is within their right. Even though there are some limits inherent in discovery demands, flat out refusal to respond can be detrimental. If a party believes that the information requested via discovery goes beyond the scope of the issues in the case, there is an appropriate remedy. The way to refuse is to object based on the procedural rules imposed by the jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction have a set of evidentiary rules that sets forth the grounds to object and the methods to do so.
The hidden assets in divorce, is entirely different. There is no “proper” or “acceptable” grounds for intentionally hiding property. If a party really believes that they are within their right to omit information concerning property, again they must object on evidentiary grounds. There is no justification for intentionally deceiving the other side, and essentially the court, by not disclosing vital information.
The Ramifications of Hiding Assets
Objections to discovery requests are not surefire, they can be disputed. In the event that objections are dispute, the judge usually makes the final decision either way. Refusing to turn over information with the intent to deceive the other side though, has a different set of consequences. As I stated above, there is an obligation to provide information, share documents or show up for depositions in all divorce proceedings. Being honest with the discovery that is provided is also a must. Although there are consequences for failure to disclose, the sanctions for lying (hiding assets is in fact lying) can be catastrophic.
Perjury, unfavorable court decision in custody or property distribution and/or monetary sanctions are all possible consequences for hiding assets.
If you think the other side is intentionally misrepresenting their net worth, it is your duty to prove this. Methods like subpoenas, depositions, asset searches, investigations, etc. are all useful tactics to reveal this to the court.
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