Dishonesty is oftentimes a big problem for people who are going through a divorce. Dishonesty can show itself in your finances, in your relationship, and in many other areas of the marriage. If you get right down to it dishonesty is often the major 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 being able to represent people who are going through divorces with a dishonest spouse is to always be vigilant about making sure the other person is being truthful and then taking steps to safeguard the integrity of your own client's case.
If you are encountering a divorce scenario and believe that your spouse is being untruthful with you about their assets and about 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 a dishonest person suddenly become honest. Rather, you have to hold that person accountable for their actions and take steps to ensure that he or she is now being honest 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 really worth your time to consider in the midst of a divorce, however. The reason being is that 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 really worth your time. You have actual issues to determine within your own case and figuring out why your spouse is dishonest is not really worth your time. There were already some fundamental problems in the relationship, and you can add lying or dishonesty to that list.
All you really 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 by means of a spouse taking out a credit card or debts in their partners name and never disclosing that to the spouse.
In many ways, financial infidelity is just as damaging, if not more so, then sexual or relational infidelity. For many people, you can rationalize away sexual infidelity due to it being a onetime thing where emotion or other physical impulses take over and a person cannot help themselves from cheating. However, financial infidelity almost takes a greater deal of denial and lack of regard for the well-being of the other person in your marriage. But it also shows 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 when it comes to financial infidelity. It is the hot, intentionality an effort that goes into financial infidelity that can many times 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 upon how complex your community estate is and how well your spouse has done at hiding and sheltering assets and debts during the course of your marriage. A big part of this discussion also hinges on your knowledge of your personal 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. If you have virtually no access to the money that goes towards your support and do not contribute monetarily to the marriage, then you are at an especially 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 have no knowledge of the money that goes in and only have knowledge of the money that you withdraw or utilized on a daily basis 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 and relatively no knowledge of what your spouse does for a living then you are also at an especially high risk of having someone fraudulently hide assets from you in your divorce. You should be clear and honest with your attorney about your lack of knowledge of your financial situation so that he or she 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 in order to protect yourself from any untruths, lies or cover ups that your spouse may attempt to engage in during the course of your divorce. If you know that you have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to managing your family finances, then you need to be honest with your attorney about this. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're a bad person or that you are 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 then you need to take preventative steps towards ensuring that you are not taken advantage of in the divorce as a result.
I would recommend that you have your attorney speak directly to your spouse is attorney about your concerns. This accomplishes many things. First of all, you may be able to 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 spouses attorney may be willing to provide some basic information to either corroborate your concerns or dispelled them altogether. I'm not saying that your attorney should take the other attorney at their word necessarily, but I am saying that to not address 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 there each party are facing. 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. He or she 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 he or she no longer engages 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 requests for discovery. 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 submit answers and information to the other side. If one of you fails too 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 a great 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 he or she has 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 financial issues that have been ongoing.
Once discovery responses have been turned in you should review the responses 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 he or she will necessarily continue to lie especially when they know that there is a possibility that a judge could punish him or her 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 trial but there is always a chance here 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 make sure that all financial information is made available prior to mediation. Without this being assured, attending mediation will not do you much good. Keep in mind that when it comes to financial issues that if you are not able to settle these problems in the divorce it is unlikely that you could ever come back to a family court to have these issues reopened.
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. Make sure that your attorney is aware of your spouse’s behavior, listen to his or her advice, communicate when you are able to directly with your spouse about these problems and then make sure that discovery is sent out and responses are received in a timely fashion. if you can follow this type of advice you will be better served in your divorce and will have a better understanding of what your true financial circumstances are.
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. Thank you for your interest in our blog and we hope you will join us again here tomorrow.