Married couples often spend years building wealth together. They invest in their marital home, set aside resources for retirement and acquire all different sorts of personal property. The more financially successful either spouse becomes, the more property they will likely have to divide if the marriage ends in divorce. Typically, Massachusetts spouses have an obligation to disclose all of their marital resources and debts both to one another and to the courts. Then, they can negotiate or litigate a way to appropriately divide their marital property.
Some people resent the obligation to share their income and assets with a spouse during a divorce. Occasionally, one spouse will try to avoid the obligation to share assets with the other by intentionally hiding some of their property. Undisclosed resources can potentially impact divorce proceedings in Massachusetts in the following ways.
The outcome can be less than fair
The first and most obvious consequence of undisclosed marital resources is that the courts can’t reach a fair property division order when they don’t have a comprehensive understanding of each spouse’s assets. Some people will need to carefully search for hidden assets to ensure the outcome of the divorce is fair.
If someone moves money into a hidden bank account or takes physical assets out of the marital home to keep them off of the inventory of property, the final property division order may be less equitable than it should be. People therefore need to pay close attention to both what assets their spouse includes and the valuation of those assets. Misrepresentations of someone’s personal holdings and intentional undervaluations can negatively impact the spouse who attempts to make full disclosures.
The case could end up appealed
There are very few scenarios in which the Massachusetts family courts will revisit a property division order. However, a scenario involving hidden assets might warrant an appeal. Judges can penalize a spouse for hiding resources by changing the final property division order and granting more of the marital estate to the spouse who did not hide assets from the courts.
Spouses hoping to obtain a fair outcome or avoid a protracted legal battle may need help looking for hidden assets and accurately valuing the resources included in the inventory of marital property. Seeking legal guidance proactively can be helpful under such circumstances.