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What if my spouse hides assets during our Texas Divorce?

What if my spouse hides assets during our Texas Divorce?

We’ve all head the phrase, “The fear of the unknown”. This refers, basically, to the idea that people have a high level of anxiety about those things that we do not know a lot about. When you’re watching a scary movie, part of the thrill is that you don’t know what door the bad-guy is hiding behind or which of the protagonists is going to meet their demise next. If you knew exactly what to expect then there would be no surprise, no thrill and no fear.

If you are contemplating a divorce from your spouse, then I can tell you the process is pretty similar in a lot of ways. Unfortunately with divorce as common as it is today we all know people who have gone through a divorce. Like most folks who are going through a not so fun situation this person may have shared with you some of their own horror stories. You may have left that conversation, thought about your own life and then began the process of worrying about whether or not you actually wanted to go through with the divorce after all.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC is here to assist you with putting some of those fears of the unknown to rest. Specifically, we would like to discuss your spouse’s ability to hide assets from you in your divorce. How can you deal with this type of situation when you had no idea it was even coming? Read on.

What exactly does it mean to hide assets in a divorce?

Unfortunately, it pretty common for one party to at least attempt to hide from their spouse one asset or another in their divorce. This is especially true in divorces where the stakes are higher- i.e., those type of divorces where a lot of money is at stake. A common scenario is one where a spouse believes that a piece of property or other asset is rightfully theirs but will be considered community property instead. Rather than disclose this information to their attorney and/or the other party, they will choose to simply not tell the other spouse about whatever it is (a bank account, piece of property, etc.) that they want to keep hidden.

Hiding an asset in this way is against the law, pure and simple. This fact alone does not stop the practice and it is one that occurs with some regularity. Sometimes the attempt to hide the asset is discovered during the divorce. You will find that during the divorce your attorney will most likely send over what is called Discovery to the opposing party. Discovery allows you and your lawyer to learn more about your spouse’s financial status, theories of their case and other information relevant to a trial in your divorce. This is a best case scenario in that no efforts to right a wrong need to be made after a judge has signed off on the final orders.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to find out about a hidden asset during the course of the divorce. Sometimes your spouse could be successful in hiding the asset from you or your attorney. This means that the asset was not made a part of the property division of your divorce and instead went completely to the side of your spouse without your knowledge.

What are your options to address the asset being hidden from you?

If you are a victim of your spouse’s purposeful act of hiding an asset all is not lost. You have a good shot at being able to recover the portion of the hidden asset that should have been awarded to you in the divorce. The process that you would seek to undertake would be to file a Suit to Divide Undivided Property.

You may pursue a Suit to Divide Undivided Property against your former spouse only if the property at issue was actually in existence during the time of your divorce case. If a piece of property or a stock option were only hypothetical at the time of your divorce then you will not be successful in bringing this type of lawsuit.

What will the judge evaluate in your Suit to Divide Undivided Property?

Procedurally, you will need to file this lawsuit in the same court that heard your divorce case the first time around. The judge will review your allegations and evaluate your case based on a few factors. The most important factor, in my opinion, is whether or not the judge believes that your spouse hid the assets intentionally in order to commit fraud against you. Much like in a criminal proceeding, proving intent can be very difficult to achieve.

A word of caution in assuming fraud was committed against you

At this point I will say one thing about assuming that your spouse has bad intent in areas like we’ve been discussing today. If you go into your divorce with the assumption that your spouse wants nothing more than to take you to the cleaners, financially speaking, then you are like most people. Every little thing they do, or don’t do, is taken as part of a master plan to take something from you. I get it – you’re emotionally involved and have been hurt by this person in the past.

However, in the battle between “actively trying to harm you” and “overlooking a detail due to negligence”, usually it is negligence rather than any purposeful action that is the cause of this type of situation. Of course, this does not mean do everything possible to ensure that you get what is rightfully yours. What this does mean is don’t go through your divorce with the thought that you need to be on the lookout for attempts to defraud you or otherwise upset you by your spouse. In the event that an oversight does occur most divorce decrees have a provision that allow for post-divorce splits that can occur in mediation.

So while you may be the victim of fraud you need to do your leg work to make sure you know as much as possible about your spouse’s financial life before your divorce concludes. Not only will you have done your due diligence but you will be able to lay the foundation for a Suit to Divide Undivided Property if there is grounds for it after the divorce has concluded.

Questions on high asset divorces? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you have any questions on high asset divorces or any other subject in family law please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. One of our licensed family law attorneys will be available to meet with you six days a week to answer questions and discuss the services our firm can provide a client with.