A major aspect of divorce is asset distribution. However, something that happens more often than it should is one spouse sheltering or hiding income or assets to avoid sharing them during the divorce proceedings. In the divorce process, divorcing spouses may need to be extra careful when it comes time to divide assets.
If you’re suspicious of your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you can simply ask to see all financial records and transactions. However, the spouse may lie, divert, or ignore this request. Getting the support of a family law attorney can sometimes be necessary to find out the truth. There are professional and legal routes to uncovering hidden assets or income.
If you’re considering or entering into a divorce in or around Lincoln, Nebraska, contact the family law attorneys at Anderson, Creager and Wittstruck, P.C., L.L.O. We will listen to your story, assess the situation, and help you undertake a plan to uncover any hidden assets or income-reporting tricks. We also proudly serve clients throughout Lancaster County, Gage County, Saline County, Seward County, Otoe County, Cass County, and Saunders County.
Division of Assets in Nebraska
A divorce involves splitting assets acquired during the marriage. In Nebraska, this is known as equitable distribution. Nebraska is not a community property state where everything is split 50/50, but the law aims for fair sharing. There are two types of assets in a marriage. One is known as personal or non-marital property, and the other is marital property.
Personal property is anything either spouse acquired prior to the marriage or received during the marriage through a gift or inheritance. Marital property is everything acquired during the time of marriage by either spouse, no matter whose name it is in. This can be cash, real property, wine or art collections, retirement accounts, investments, and more.
The distribution can get a bit tricky if one spouse’s personal property becomes commingled under the law. Suppose one spouse owned a rental property before marriage, which would be personal property, but the other spouse was then called upon to help maintain the property through cash or labor. The property could then be considered commingled, and the non-owning spouse would be entitled to a percentage of the property’s value.
Most divorces are ironed-out among the spouses so that they become uncontested, meaning that the judge in a divorce proceeding does not work out the distribution of assets.
If the court does end up dividing the assets, however, it will take several factors into account, such as the length of the marriage, who gets the children, the earning potential of each spouse after divorce. If one spouse sacrificed for the other by staying home to raise the children or gave up career advancements so the other could finish a master’s degree, for example, that would be factored in.
Nebraska courts generally rely on the “one-third to one-half” rule, by which both spouses would get half, or one spouse would get one-third and the other two-thirds. Of course, there could be other percentage distributions as well.
Commonly Hidden Assets and Tactics
If one spouse owns a business, that person can simply defer closing a lucrative deal until the divorce is over or even forego a commission until things are finalized. He or she could also pay nonexistent employees a salary to make it look like the value of the business is less.
Without owning a business, a spouse has several options for hiding income or assets. One is simply to sock cash away in accounts that are not revealed to the other spouse. Making gifts to others is another technique. The spouse transfers money to a friend, relative, or lover in exchange for services or as an outright gift. Of course, as part of the deal, the recipient would then return the money when the divorce is over.
Hiding physical assets can be more difficult. It’s hard to own a hidden Maserati, for instance. The spouse could always rent a storage space for real property, such as wine, art, or even vehicles, but that can pose some challenges. The subterfuge level would be more pronounced. Regardless, a spouse who wants to hide assets can and will, or will at least attempt to do so.
Uncovering the Truth
If your spouse refuses to cooperate or simply denies having any records or hidden assets, you may require the help of an experienced family law and divorce attorney. Your attorney can then seek out the services of a forensic accountant who is skilled and experienced at uncovering hidden assets and income.
The other options are to work through the court. Your attorney can demand that your spouse turn over all financial statements, tax returns, loan applications, and other documents. The court can even apply sanctions if she or he doesn’t comply. You and your attorney can also use what is called the discovery process, which involves presenting your spouse with a series of questions (called interrogatories) designed to uncover the truth.
A final step is an oral deposition before a court reporter. The deposition is taken under oath, so if your spouse lies, he or she can be liable for a charge of perjury. The threat of criminal prosecution is often enough for your spouse to come clean.
Fighting for Your Rights Every Step of the Way
If you’re considering divorce or have been served papers, seek out knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel immediately. The divorce attorneys at Anderson, Creager and Wittstruck, P.C., L.L.O. have the resources and experience to help you uncover the true extent of all marital property that should be divided.
We will not only help you in the asset discovery process, but we will also help you forge an equitable divorce settlement agreement to avoid lengthy and expensive court proceedings. If you need representation in court as well, we are happy to provide that. If you’re in or around Lincoln, Nebraska, reach out today.