Dishonesty is often a big problem for people who are going through a divorce. Dishonesty can show itself in your finances, your relationship, and many other marriage areas. If you get right down to it, dishonesty is often the primary cause of most divorces in some regard. As practicing family law attorneys, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan encounters clients in opposing clients who have engaged in dishonest behavior in their past. The key to representing people going through divorces with a dishonest spouse is always to be vigilant about making sure the other person is being truthful and then taking steps to safeguard the integrity of your client’s case.
If you are encountering a divorce scenario and believe that your spouse is untruthful with you about their assets and the state of your financial affairs, then you do not have to sit idly by while someone is dishonest with you. However, it is not always easy to make an evil person suddenly become honest. Instead, you have to hold that person accountable for their actions and take steps to ensure that they are now frank with you and forthright. Their failure, to be honest, can hurt you now and in the future.
Why are people dishonest when it comes to their assets?
This is the fundamental question that we should answer in today’s blog post. It is not worth your time to consider amid a divorce, however. You have many things to think about during a divorce, and the reasons why or why not your spouse has been honest with you when it comes to issues like assets and debts is not worth your time. You have actual problems to determine within your case, and figuring out why your spouse is dishonest is not worth your time. There were already some fundamental problems in the relationship, and you can add lying or dishonesty to that list.
All you need to know is that once you become aware of their dishonesty or their propensity to lie, you need to take precautions to protect yourself and your well-being in the future. Financial infidelity can come across in multiple different ways. We see financial infidelity in the straight-up hiding of assets that spouses do not want their partners to become aware of. These could be assets that were purchased during the time of your marriage but were kept hidden or secret in order so that they would not need to be disclosed at the time of a divorce. Or, financial infidelity can come across utilizing a spouse taking out a credit card or debts in their partner’s name and never disclosing that to the spouse.
In many ways, financial infidelity is just as damaging, if not more so, than sexual or relational infidelity. For many people, you can rationalize away sexual affair due to it being a one-time thing where emotion or other physical impulses take over, and a person cannot help themselves from cheating. However, financial infidelity almost takes a more significant deal of denial and lack of regard for the other person’s well-being in your marriage. But it also shows there is some degree of planning that has to be exhibited by a spouse. While there does not necessarily have to be any planning associated with sexual infidelity, there almost always is some degree of planning for financial infidelity. The hot, intentionality of an effort goes into financial affairs that can often cause a divorce.
As the innocent spouse, it is your job to hold your spouse accountable and ensure that no assets are hidden from you in the divorce itself. This may be more easily said than done, depending on how complex your community estate is and how well your spouse has done to hide and shelter assets and debts during your marriage. A big part of this discussion also hinges on your knowledge of your financial situation and how much access you have had to bank accounts and other financial vehicles.
You can perform a simple self-assessment at the very beginning of your divorce to determine what sort of risk you are at when it comes to having assets and debts hidden from you. Suppose you have virtually no access to the money towards your support and do not contribute monetarily to the marriage. In that case, you are at an exceptionally high risk of being lied to when it comes to your finances. I am envisioning a scenario where you may have a debit card that goes to a checking account would not know about the money that goes in and only know about the money that you withdraw or utilize daily for the necessities of life like groceries, car repairs, and simple repairs for your home.
If you have no experience when it comes to checking balances of accounts online, have only a vague knowledge of what your spouse has in retirement. Relatively no understanding of what your spouse does for a living, then you are also at an exceptionally high risk of having someone fraudulently hide assets from you in your divorce. It would be best if you were transparent and honest with your attorney about your lack of knowledge of your financial situation so that they may be able to take steps to help you prepare for this. Rest assured that there are means for you to prepare to hold your spouse accountable for their lying, but you need to take steps towards doing so at the very beginning of your divorce.
Preparing to hold your spouse accountable for their financial infidelity
Work with your attorney from the very beginning of your divorce to protect yourself from any untruths, lies, or cover-ups that your spouse may attempt to engage in during your divorce. If you know that you have been asleep at the wheel when managing your family finances, you need to be honest with your attorney about this. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a terrible person or lazy; all it means is that you may have a spouse who has gone out of their way to hide certain things from you. If this is the case, you need to take preventative steps towards ensuring that you are not taken advantage of in the divorce.
I would recommend that you have your attorney speak directly to your spouse’s attorney about your concerns. This accomplishes many things. First of all, you may learn more information just from talking to the other attorney. Despite what many people believe about attorneys, we are typically professional and cordial with our colleagues. This means that your spouse’s attorney may be willing to provide some basic information to either corroborate your concerns or dispel them altogether. I’m not saying that your attorney should take the other attorney at their word necessarily, but I am saying that addressing the problem head-on with the lawyer would be a mistake.
Next, addressing the problem directly with the attorney causes that attorney to become aware of the circumstances each party faces. Your spouse may have no idea about your knowledge about the financial issues that you all have been going through as far as assets being hidden from you. They may believe that you are none the wiser to what they have been doing in that here she can continue to get away with it. You should be upfront at the beginning so that they no longer engage in that kind of behavior and is more honest with you and your attorney.
The next step in the process is to send out formal discovery requests. Discovery is a process whereby you and your attorney and your spouse and their attorney would submit requests for information, documents, and responses to questions related to your divorce. Typically, each party will have 30 days to offer answers and report to the other side if one of you fails to return responses by the 30-day deadline. You can request to have your issues brought before a judge, and the judge can not only require answers be submitted but also penalize your spouse and their attorney for failing to turn in these answers.
Discovery is an excellent way for you to learn information about your finances, get admissions on the record about whether or not your spouse has been untruthful about particular issues in the past, and then find out more information about assets. You may even want to request a credit report for your spouse so that you can see any debts that they have taken out whether or not those will have an impact on your divorce. This is the most efficient and ironclad way of getting these responses from your spouse and can go a long way towards helping you understand the full breadth of the ongoing financial issues.
Once discovery responses have been turned in, you should review the answers for completeness and accuracy. If you suspect for any reason that your spouse is still not being truthful with you should direct questions to the opposing attorney and then set the matter for hearing in front of a judge if necessary. It is understandable for you to be concerned about truthfulness, given your spouse’s history of lying to you. However, that does not mean that they will necessarily continue to lie, especially when they know that there is a possibility that a judge could punish them for doing so.
What the discovery process also allows you to do is to prepare for mediation and a trial. It is most likely that your case will settle in mediation rather than proceed to a problem, but there is always a chance that the case could go all the way to a judge. Mediation allows you and your spouse to utilize the experience of a mediator to help you arrive at a settlement to your case. This means that you all will be able to get an outsider’s perspective on your case who can help create practical and flexible solutions to your problems.
Note that mediation is most effective when all the parties are operating with the same information in mind. Therefore, this puts even more of an onus on you and your attorney to ensure that all financial information is made available before mediation. Without this being assured, attending mediation will not do you much good. Keep in mind that when it comes to financial issues, if you cannot settle these problems in the divorce, it is unlikely that you could ever come back to a family court to reopen these issues.
So, if you want to make sure that your spouse is past untruthfulness when it comes to hiding assets is held to account, it is best to do so during the divorce. Ensure that your attorney is aware of your spouse’s behavior, listen to their advice, communicate when you can directly with your spouse about these problems, and then make sure that discovery is sent out. Responses are received in a timely fashion. If you can follow this type of advice, you will be better served in your divorce and better understand your factual financial circumstances.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post; please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. I appreciate your interest in our blog, and we hope you will join us again here tomorrow.