FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS DEDICATED TO ASSISTING RESIDENTS OF ATLANTA
Under Georgia law, the marital assets of a divorcing couple are divided “equitably”—that is, fairly—in order that both parties, following divorce, may be able to enjoy the benefits of the assets they have jointly acquired during marriage. However, sometimes one spouse will attempt to hide assets from the other and also from the court, in order to deprive the other spouse of the benefit of those assets. If you believe that your spouse may have hidden marital assets in order to shield them from the court’s consideration, the lawyers at Rowsey & Stelter can assist you. Serving the Atlanta region in a broad variety of family law matters, we have represented individuals in communities throughout Fulton, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties, such as Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Johns Creek.
UNCOVERING HIDDEN ASSETS
In order to arrive at an equitable division of marital assets, courts require spouses to provide a full listing of their assets and debts, both separate and marital. As part of their submission to the court, each spouse must sign a financial affidavit, which is a sworn document to the court that the listing is both complete and accurate. Although an honest mistake (such as forgetting to list a particular asset) does not present a problem as long as the oversight is remedied promptly by a corrected affidavit, purposeful or fraudulent concealment of assets is the equivalent of committing perjury to the court, and it can be punished by fines, the payment of attorney fees, and even jail time.
While it might appear difficult to hide assets from a spouse, such schemes are not uncommon. Particularly when one spouse is responsible for handling the family’s finances, the other spouse can mistakenly trust that finances are being handled responsibly and believe that deceptive financial dealings are legitimate. For example, some common ways assets are hidden include:
- Asking an employer to defer a raise or bonus until after divorce;
- Hiding “extra” cash in a safe deposit box or some place unknown to the other spouse;
- Opening a separate bank account in a child’s name, while retaining the right to manage the account;
- Investing in portable assets—such as artwork, wine, or other collectibles—and either hiding them or having them appraised at less than their full value;
- “Repaying” non-existent debt to a colluding party, who agrees to return the money after the divorce is final;
- For spouses who own a business, creating a fictional employee, vendor, consultant, or other party who “receives” payments that will be returned following the divorce;
- Deferring profitable sales, contracts, or accounts with a potential customer to keep the valuation of a family-owned business artificially low; or
- Investing in and hiding non-traceable cash-equivalents, such as bearer bonds, cash (“gift”) cards, or traveler’s checks.
Many of these assets are difficult to trace, but they can be identified in various ways, particularly through forensic accountants who specialize in tracing hidden assets.
Some indicators that a spouse may be hiding assets can include a reluctance to involve attorneys in the divorce, living a more extravagant lifestyle than the acknowledged income would allow, transacting with cash financial matters with cash which would normally be handled another way, or having financial documents redirected to a P.O. Box.
CONTACT AN ATLANTA LAWYER FOR GUIDANCE DURING A DIVORCE
If you know or suspect your spouse is hiding assets, you need to be able to prove it in order for those assets to be accounted for in your divorce proceedings, and your evidence must be clear and sufficient. At Rowsey & Stelter, our Atlanta attorneys are knowledgeable in matters related to divorce. and can investigate the evidence you need to make your case. You can contact us at (770) 993-5317 or use our online form to set up a consultation. Even if your divorce is final, we may be able to help you pursue a modification of your decree to obtain an asset division that may be more favorable to you than what the court otherwise would have awarded.