The dangers of dishonesty during divorce property division

As part of nearly every divorce in Arkansas, the couple will have to go through the process of property division, whereby the couple's assets, personal property and debts are divided equitably between the two spouses.

The goal of the property division process is to treat both spouses fairly, considering their individual needs and contributions to the family. This goal is hard to achieve, though, when one spouse decides to be dishonest.

Dishonesty during property division can take a number of different forms. In some cases, a spouse may actually hide assets, either by storing personal property somewhere where the other spouse cannot access it or by transferring money into a secret bank account. In other situations, the deceit is hidden in the financial disclosure paperwork, often by understating income or by overstating debts and expenses.

Hiding assets during divorce is not just dishonest — it is also illegal. Still, financial dishonesty is fairly common, both during a marriage and after. A recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education revealed some striking statistics:

  • 34 percent of respondents admitted to lying to their spouse about their earnings, debt or overall financial status
  • 54 percent of respondents admitted to hiding a purchase from their spouse
  • 30 percent of respondents admitted to hiding a bill or financial statement from their spouse

The likelihood of dishonesty is even higher in divorce, since the spouses often harbor a significant amount of animosity and a desire to "win." Some signs that your spouse may be hiding assets include the following:

  • Being secretive about financial matters or not allowing you to have access to your shared bank accounts
  • Receiving mail at a P.O. box instead of at home
  • Claiming significant unreimbursed business expenditures
  • Claiming to be losing income, but not appearing to be spending less
  • Claiming that the computer where financial records are kept has crashed or otherwise become corrupted

Working with a divorce attorney

If you are thinking about hiding assets from your spouse during divorce, think again. When you sign your divorce financial affidavit, you are promising that everything contained in it is completely accurate. Lying on the affidavit is perjury. If you are caught, you could be held in contempt, ordered to pay financial damages to your spouse and maybe even incarcerated.

If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets or withholding information, it is important to alert your divorce attorney to this as soon as possible. Don't try to take matters into your own hands — not only will this not be very efficient, but you may actually be violating the law by snooping into your spouse's financial information.

Instead, your divorce attorney will work with a team of experts to investigate your spouse's financial situation. If it turns out your spouse has been lying, your attorney will be able to help you pursue the appropriate legal action.