Pennsylvania’s divorce laws are clear that spouses need to make honest and thorough disclosures of their assets and debts to one another or to the courts if a judge is setting the terms for a contested divorce.
Unfortunately, there are always those who want to manipulate the divorce process to their own benefit. Some people will try to keep more of the marital property than they should in divorce by hiding assets from their ex or the Pennsylvania family courts.
What happens during the contested divorce proceeding where one spouse tries to hide property from the other?
What happens when no one finds the property?
Hiding assets is a process that might involve making small cash withdrawals every week for months or moving physical property to a storage unit. There could be value hidden in a business or in personal property accumulated throughout the marriage but not reported as marital property.
Everything from someone’s jewelry collection to their vehicle could represent major money that they don’t want to share with their ex. Some people will go to extreme lengths, like opening up offshore bank accounts, just to hide property from their spouse.
If neither the court nor the other spouse discovers their misconduct, the outcome will be an unfair and biased ruling by the courts. If a judge doesn’t know the true value of the property the couple has, the terms they set will unfairly benefit the spouse hiding property in many cases.
What happens when the other spouse finds the hidden property?
Sometimes, through careful analysis of an asset inventory or the assistance of professionals like forensic accountants, a divorcing spouse will locate substantial hidden assets that their ex wants to shield from the divorce process.
Once you locate and place a value on those assets, you can submit documentation to the courts regarding those assets and requesting that the judge include them during the property distribution process. At the very least, the divorce decree will be fairer because it includes all of the assets and not just what was initially disclosed.
If the judge believes the behavior to be intentional, they may give more to the ex in a final ruling. In some cases with significant hidden assets located after the divorce, the courts may even revisit the divorce decree due to the misrepresentation of material facts by one of the spouses. Careful financial analysis during the initial stages of divorce can help you avoid this kind of stress by ensuring you locate assets early in the process.