Spouse lying about assets and income what do I do?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I am in the process of getting a divorce. My husband was always secretive and controlling. If I am honest, I have no idea how much money he makes, what property we own, or whether he’s hidden assets in bank accounts overseas. I suspect he is underreporting his assets and income to avoid having to pay as much child support and spousal support. What can I do?” 

Divorce is difficult enough when both parties are cooperating. But if one party is lying to protect their interests this can affect a variety of divorce issues including child custody, spousal support and property division. Identifying lies can also be difficult. Common actions that a deceptive spouse might take include:

  • Hiding assets
  • Hiding income
  • Misrepresenting how money is spent
  • Stealing money from a business
  • Spending joint income on another person

So, what do you do to ensure that your interests are protected? Although it’s best to work within the legal system, there are certain steps you should take.

Protecting yourself in the divorce process 

  1. Ask your spouse for all financial records.

It’s not unusual for one spouse to keep track of the finances while the other spouse has very little financial information. If this is the case, however, you will need to get copies of your financial records from your spouse. For many accounts, you may be able to request the information yourself, especially if you are a joint account holder.

Records you will need may include monthly bank statements, income tax returns, mortgage documents, retirement information, household bills, credit card statements, child’s birth certificates, school attendance records, report cards, and medical records.

  1. Hire a lawyer or forensic accountant with experience in finding hidden assets. 

The next step if your spouse is hiding assets or income is to contact a divorce lawyer who knows how to find hidden assets.  The right lawyer or forensic accountant can help minimize your contact with your spouse, identify patterns of lying, protect your rights, finding unreported assets and hidden income, and limit requests that may damage your case.

  1. Identifying assets and income through discovery.

Another legal process to find assets is through discovery. During discovery both spouses will be required to document their marital property, their separate property, and all property which might have been comingled during the divorce.

Although the process may vary a bit by state, generally both spouses will be required to provide financial documents, answer all request for information (referred to as interrogatories or requests for admission), submit to demands for inspection of property, and provide testimony under oath.

What if my spouse does not provide information for the discovery? If your spouse does not cooperate with the court of if they lie and you can prove they are lying, they could be sanctioned, face monetary fines, or be charged with perjury. 

What if my spouse lies under oath? 

The best way to prove that your spouse is lying under oath is to present evidence that contradicts his statements. It can be tough to get a criminal charge brought against your spouse and it may be difficult to get the court to award a new settlement unless you can produce concrete evidence showing that your spouse was untruthful.

It can also be expensive and time-consuming to find the right legal help. If your spouse has committed a crime you might need to take your case to a criminal lawyer rather than a family divorce lawyer.

Bottom Line:

Both spouses should be involved in the financial decisions for a family. If you have a spouse who hides financial information from you this could be a red flag. The good news is there are experts including lawyers and forensic accountants who specialize in uncovering hidden assets. Hire the right experts and make sure there is a thorough review of expensive assets. With the right help you can identify delayed bonuses or raises, unreported income, fake payments to nonexistent employees, or expenses to a girlfriend.

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