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Why you shouldn’t try to hide assets during a divorce

| Dec 8, 2020 | Divorce, Property Division

When a couple decides to conclude their marriage, that decision usually comes with a lot of conflict and heartache. Often, the most contentious part of the divorce process is the division of marital assets.

Understandably, you may be reluctant to part with your hard-earned money or other property. You might feel the temptation to gift that property to your friend, or hide it in some other way, in order to keep it safe from a judge who might take that property from you and give it to your ex-spouse. Before you take this course of action, however, you should know that hiding marital assets is highly illegal and can end up leaving you in a much worse financial situation than you otherwise would be.

Pennsylvania divides property fairly, even if not necessarily equally

Different states apply different rules when deciding how to divide up a couple’s property in a divorce. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court will take into account both spouses’ financial situation, and the full inventory of their assets, in order to divide them in a way that is fair, even if it isn’t necessarily equal. For example, a court might give fewer of the marital assets to a spouse with higher earning potential and a stable job than to a spouse with no education and no employable skills.

In order to make this decision, the court needs a clear and accurate summary of the couple’s marital assets. For this reason, the judge will see any attempt by one of the spouses to hide assets as an attempt to obstruct the court’s ability to grant a fair distribution of the property.

Lying to the court can land you in big trouble

When you sign a document to be used in a court proceeding, such as the inventory of your assets, you are taking an oath that the information you provided is accurate. If the court finds out that you knowingly lied on one of these forms, you can be found guilty of perjury. In the best-case scenario, the judge could just make the concealed property count towards your share of the proceeds. They could also grant the concealed property to your ex-spouse outright. They could make you pay legal fees for “failure to disclose.” There are laws and rules on full disclosure in the Pennsylvania divorce code.

Divorce courts and attorneys are trained to detect attempts to conceal assets, and they deal with such situations all the time. Before you think you can get away with it in order to save a bit of money on your divorce settlement, you should think twice. It’s best to play it safe and to give a full and truthful accounting of your assets. The fines and complications simply aren’t worth it.