Penalties for Hiding Assets During a Divorce in Florida
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In order to gain financial benefits from the divorce process, some divorcing couples hide their marital assets. In Florida, just like in any other state, hiding assets is considered a reckless action. Individuals caught hiding assets during a divorce may result in a greater amount of their marital assets being allocated to their spouse. They may also face contempt of court or criminal charges for fraud or perjury.
Some spouses facing a divorce have tried hiding their assets by transferring them to relatives or friends by way of phony loans, burying money in their basements, not divulging the property they own, or laundering cash through their business.
Florida is a state that practices equitable distribution during divorce. The courts distribute the marital property in an equitable and fair manner, which usually results in property being divided 50/50 between both parties, unless the courts deem the division of the property inequitable. This means that either divorcing party is allowed to introduce evidence that he/she deserves a bigger share of the marital property based on various factors, such as large contribution to marital assets or lesser earnings of the other spouse.
The court, upon discovery of the divorcing spouse’s hidden assets, will assess court costs, order him/her to pay the legal or private investigator’s bills of the opposing spouse, and will have any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements voided. These can cost the guilty spouse a lot of money.
Apart from civil penalties, the refusal of a divorcing spouse to disclose assets or any information requested by the court may cause the guilty party to be held in contempt of court and to face fines or a jail sentence. Lying about assets in court may lead to perjury charges for testifying falsely under oath. If a prosecutor charges the guilty spouse with fraud or deceiving the other spouse by hiding assets, then he or she may face restitution and jail time.
Even if a spouse who hid assets was able to get away with it during the divorce, post-divorce actions can still be implemented against him/her if proof surfaces at a later time. Most settlement agreements on divorce incorporate a clause requiring full disclosure of assets, but even in agreements without a disclosure clause, the guilty party is not protected if his/her hidden assets are discovered at a later date. In this case, the innocent spouse is allowed to file a petition to reopen the divorce settlement and to file civil charges against the ex-spouse for the purpose of requesting monetary and punitive damages.
If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets from you, your Florida divorce attorney will try to find his/her hidden assets and will question your spouse through oral depositions or written interrogatories