If divorce is on the horizon for you, one of the practical aspects of the divorce process will be the division of marital assets and debts. If you have minor children of the marriage, child support will also be an issue. Spousal support may even be something you plan to request or that you anticipate your spouse will request. What all of these issues have in common is that they are determined based on the income and assets of both spouses. What happens, however, if you believe your spouse is hiding assets or income? To answer that question, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains how the possibility of hidden assets or income is handled in a Tennessee divorce.
Tennessee Divorce Basics
If you have never been through the divorce process, it helps to learn some basics before discussing hidden assets or income. If you initiate the divorce, you are known as the “Petitioner” and your spouse the “Respondent.” Once you file the divorce petition, your spouse must be served with it. He/she then has a limited amount of time within which to file a written Answer with the court. If no Answer is filed, you can request a default judgment. Assuming, however, that the Respondent does file an Answer, the next step is known as the “discovery” phase. During this phase, each party is supposed to share relevant information with the other party, including financial information. Your spouse will be required to file a financial affidavit with the court indicating his/her income and the value of all assets. You may, however, have reason to believe that your spouse is being less than honest.
Is Your Spouse Hiding Assets and/or Income?
Sometimes a party knows that a spouse is hiding income and/or assets and the only issue is proving it. More often, however, there are just signs that indicate the possibility that a spouse is being less than truthful, such as:
- Complete control over finances
- Has financial statements and/or documents sent to an office or a P.O. box
- Won’t share passwords to banking/investment websites
- Asks for signatures on documents without offering a real explanation
- Pays for things in cash frequently
- Claims investments or assets suddenly lost value
- Owns a financial account in a country known for “offshore accounts”
What Can You Do to Find the Assets and/or Income?
The truth is that you cannot always find the hidden assets and/or income – but sometimes you can. There are several legal tools and strategies your divorce attorney can employ to find hidden money. To begin with, a forensic accountant can scour any financial documents your spouse does provide, including tax returns, bank statements, and investment portfolios, looking for omissions or inconsistencies. Your attorney can also subpoena a variety of documents, such as loan applications, business documents, and accounts statements. A Request for Production of Documents is another discovery tool that allows your attorney to request your spouse to turn over specific documents. If they are not turned over, your spouse could be held in contempt by the judge. Interrogatories, another discovery tool, require your spouse to answer questions under the penalty of perjury. A deposition is another opportunity to ask questions under oath, in person, with a court reporter recording the answers.
What Are the Consequences for Hiding Assets or Income?
If you do manage to uncover hidden assets and/or income, the court will add those assets and/or income into the marital pot. Tennessee is an equitable division state, meaning a judge must only order a “fair” division of assets. In most cases, if the judge learns that one spouse was trying to hide assets, the judge will use that fact when dividing the assets and award the innocent spouse a larger share. The same applies to hidden income. Once a judge is made aware that a party was hiding income, the child and/or spousal support order will likely increase accordingly.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney
If you have additional questions about hidden assets or income in a Tennessee divorce, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.