Dividing property equitably is one of the main objectives of divorce proceedings in North Carolina. This requires both parties to be honest and upfront about the marital assets. While it may seem tempting to hide assets during a divorce in order to avoid an unfavorable ruling, it is likely to cost you far more in the end.
What it Means to Hide Assets During a Divorce
Hiding assets refers to concealing bank accounts, funds, real estate, or even valuable collections from your spouse before or during the divorce proceedings. People attempt to do this a number of ways, including “gifting” the money or property to a family member until the divorce is finalized, not reporting their entire income, or denying they have possession of property.
Since these assets will likely be divided during divorce proceedings, many people believe that by hiding the assets, they can keep 100% of what they believe is rightfully theirs. In reality, it is always better to disclose all assets in a divorce. When it is discovered that someone has been hiding assets, they become subject to fines and penalties that often far outweigh the loss they would have taken if the assets had been divided in the first place.
The exception to this rule is separate property, or property that was acquired before the marriage. If one person purchased a house before the marriage, that is still their sole property during the divorce. Similarly, if a person inherited a large sum of money before the marriage, it is unlikely to be divided during the divorce since it was left to that person specifically. If you have concerns about what constitutes separate property, your divorce attorney can provide assistance.
How Hidden Assets are Discovered
When someone is hiding property or money during a divorce, it’s not a matter of if they’ll get caught, it’s when.
If you know or suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, it is in your best interest to hire a private investigator or forensic accountant to uncover proof of their fraud. A private investigator can follow your spouse to see if/when they go to work, the bank(s) they visit, the people they interact with, etc. A forensic accountant is a financial professional that can trace bank accounts to determine whether there is more or less money coming in/going out than your spouse claims. This will help you understand their activities and help your attorney build a case, if they are hiding assets.
Your attorney may make requests for production of documents like tax information, receipts, and invoices to prove ownership of assets. Lawyers also use interrogatories, or written questions that a party must answer and sign under oath. Giving false or misleading statements may result in perjury charges, which carry serious penalties.
Attorneys also use depositions, which are in-person question and answer sessions where an attorney asks questions to an individual in the presence of a court reporter, who records the entire conversation. The person answering the questions is sworn in and as with interrogatories and requests to admit facts, being dishonest has serious consequences.
The Penalties for Hiding Assets in a Divorce
In addition to the penalties for lying under oath, hiding property or money during a divorce carries consequences of its own.
In the state of North Carolina, the penalty for hiding assets during divorce are stiff. When hidden assets are brought to the court’s attention, the judge has authority to issue sanctions, which are monetary penalties. The person that hid assets will be responsible for paying their spouse what they owe them, which may result in higher alimony payments or even paying the other party’s legal fees.
What if I Found Out my Spouse Hid Assets After the Divorce Was Finalized?
If hidden assets are discovered once the divorce proceedings are over, it’s not too late. If you receive alimony, you are eligible to petition for a post-divorce modification. This will change the amount based on what was hidden from the court during the original proceedings. The judge will increase your alimony to reflect the true value of the marital estate.
Suspect Your Spouse is Hiding Assets? Contact The Doyle Law Group
If you need help navigating your divorce or believe your spouse is hiding assets, the team at The Doyle Law Group is here to help. We’ve guided couples through divorce for over 14 years and always ensure you have the representation that you deserve. To schedule your consultation, call us at (919) 234-5513 or fill out our online contact form below.
Protecting your Privacy ~ Your privacy is our primary concern. At the Doyle Law Group, we understand the importance of protecting your privacy and will never share your contact information with a 3rd party. Contacting our law firm does not imply any form of attorney-client relationship.