Do You Have the Right to Hide Assets in Divorce?
Florida operates under an "equitable distribution" model when it comes to dividing marital property in a divorce. This means that all marital assets (property acquired during the marriage) will be divided equitably, or fairly, but not necessarily equally. This division is based on various factors, such as each spouse's economic circumstances, the duration of the marriage, and the contributions each spouse made to the marriage.
However, the equitable distribution model poses potential risks. For example, you might end up losing a significant portion of your assets if they are considered marital property. You may also worry that the court's interpretation of what is "fair" may not align with yours.
Even so, you cannot hide assets. You do not have the right to falsify financial disclosures during the divorce or take steps to keep assets that are subject to division from your spouse.
What Happens If You Conceal Assets in Florida Divorce?
In any divorce proceeding, each party is required by law to disclose all their assets and liabilities. This full disclosure is crucial as it forms the basis for the equitable distribution of marital assets. Failing to disclose or intentionally hiding assets is considered fraudulent behavior and is punishable by law.
Penalty for Hiding Assets in Divorce in Florida
In Florida, the penalties for hiding assets in a divorce can be severe. One such penalty is jail time. In rare cases, the court may find you in contempt or charge you with perjury, which have their own consequences. Hiding assets could lead to a loss of credibility in court, which could negatively impact other aspects of the divorce proceedings, such as child custody decisions.
More commonly, the party who hid assets will be hit with the attorney's fees, costs, and expenses that their spouse incurred due to the investigation of the hidden assets. For example, suppose an individual hides a bank account with substantial funds. If discovered, not only could the person lose more than just half of the asset, but they may also face additional fines and penalties.
Hiding Assets May All Be for Naught
It is important to note that despite attempts to hide assets, they are still discoverable in some cases. Forensic accounting techniques can unearth hidden income or assets. The investigative powers of divorce attorneys can also expose concealed assets through processes like discovery and depositions.
How to Protect Your Assets in Divorce
While many people worry that equitable distribution laws pose a risk to their assets, you can take steps to safeguard your hard-earned assets. Here are some ways to protect your assets in a divorce:
Filing an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is one where both parties agree on all issues, including asset division, without going to trial. By negotiating and agreeing to terms outside of court, you maintain control over how your assets are divided, rather than leaving it in the hands of a judge. Even if you file uncontested, you can still consult with an attorney who can help you ensure the division is fair and/or negotiate with the other party.
Not commingling separate property. Assets that you owned prior to the marriage or those you received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage are generally considered separate property and are thus not subject to division. However, these can become marital property if commingled or mixed with marital assets. For example, if you inherit money and deposit it into a joint bank account, it could be considered commingled and thus become marital property. To avoid this, keep separate property truly separate.
Aggressive Counsel for Your Divorce
At Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office, we offer comprehensive divorce services. If you are worried about how to protect your assets, our attorney can help you strategize ways to negotiate with your spouse or present your case in court. Our firm also offers forensic accounting services for those who suspect the other party is hiding assets.
Complete our online contact form or call us at (727) 312-1112 to discuss your case with our experienced attorney.