In high-asset or fiercely contested divorces, it is not uncommon for one spouse to consider hiding assets from the other during the division of marital property. One spouse may have certain assets, such as an investment fund, property, or art, that he or she believes should not be shared. Or a spouse may be concerned that he or she will not have enough to live on, or a safety net, if the assets are divided equally. In some situations, however, a decision to hide assets is simply a result of anger or bitterness. Whatever the cause or excuse, this behavior is unacceptable and should not go unchallenged. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, Milwaukee divorce lawyer Terese J. Singer can advise you about the possibility of hidden assets and help you make sure that your spouse is being honest in disclosures of property during the proceedings.Financial Disclosures and the Risk of Hidden Assets
When your spouse or you initiate a divorce in Wisconsin, you will be asked to provide a financial disclosure form. This form requires you to list all of the assets in your possession that are worth more than $500, including monetary funds, real estate, and valuables such as jewelry. The items listed on your financial disclosure statement and your spouse’s statement are the starting place for the court to determine which assets will need to be divided between the two of you. Not all assets are subject to division. Property that you acquired prior to your marriage, for instance, usually is exempt from division during a divorce.
Your spouse and you also will be asked to provide a second financial disclosure statement at the time of your final divorce hearing. This will confirm existing assets. When reviewing financial disclosure statements from your spouse, or considering divorce in general, there are important warning signs of which you should be aware in order to avoid the problem of hidden assets. First, and most obvious, if you are aware of property that your spouse has not disclosed, this is an indication that your spouse is attempting to hide assets from the court. Likewise, if you notice that your spouse has been transferring assets into different accounts, is choosing to receive certain bills or statements at work, is deferring certain work benefits such as a bonus until after divorce proceedings have ended, or has transferred stock into a different name, these are all indications that assets are being moved and hidden to avoid their inclusion in divorce proceedings.What Can You Do To Address Hidden Assets?
If you believe that your spouse may be hiding assets from you, you can investigate further during the divorce discovery process. As in a civil lawsuit, you have the right to ask that your spouse answer questions (known as interrogatories) concerning his or her assets and to request that your spouse provide documents regarding these assets. The responses provided must be given under oath, and your spouse may be subject to sanctions and penalties from the court if he or she provides false information. In the event that such penalties are not enough of a disincentive, you also have the ability to subpoena documents and records from third parties directly. These may help to shed light on your spouse’s assets if you feel that you are not getting honest information. In the event that you are able to prove that your spouse was hiding assets, Wisconsin law permits courts to penalize spouses for such misrepresentations, including possibly awarding the other spouse an asset in its entirety.Seek Guidance from a Divorce Lawyer in Milwaukee or Surrounding Areas
While many divorces proceed in an honest and amicable manner, with the spouses working cooperatively toward a respectful division of assets, there are circumstances in which spouses may attempt to hide assets and information from each other. If you are concerned that your spouse may attempt to manipulate the division of property by misrepresenting assets, it is important that you speak with a family law attorney. Contact our office at (414) 271-6400 or online to set up your appointment. Experienced Milwaukee divorce attorney Terese J. Singer can advise you on a strategy for uncovering hidden assets and ensuring that your divorce proceeds in a straightforward and honest manner. Reddin & Singer, LLP represents residents of Milwaukee, Mequon, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other communities in Racine, Washington, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Waukesha Counties.