Divorce is often both a financial and emotional struggle. Alimony and child support frequently take a large, even unreasonable, amounts out of your monthly paycheck. Conversely, if your income is much smaller than your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s, or if you stayed at home to look after the family, you might find yourself in dire financial straits and the Alimony or child support you were awarded simply is not enough. Rarely are people better off living on one income as opposed to two.
Everyone deserves a divorce settlement that takes into account their specific circumstances and unique financial, logistical, or emotional contributions to the marriage. In this article, you will find three steps to follow to protect your assets in divorce and reach the settlement that is best for you.
I. Be Open and Honest—and Savvy
It is important not to hide any of your assets. Hiding your assets, or even appearing to hide your assets, may be used against you in court by your spouse and his or her counsel. Savvy divorce practitioners are rarely fooled and can trace financial transactions through your records. Once they determine that you may have hidden assets all trust is gone and they will normally get even more aggressive in the investigation into your assets. The end result is often the uncovering of the “hidden” asset and a lot more legal fees for all involved.
Some people attempt to hide their assets by spending large amounts of cash. This also often fails to improve their divorce outcomes. This is for two reasons. First, because family courts often give greater consideration to income and earnings, rather than debts and expenditures. One of the best ways to find excess cash is to simply read a party’s required income and expense statement. Usually they will try to limit their income, but try to maximize debts. If you have a negative cash flow of several thousand dollars per month, but don’t have much revolving debt, this is a pretty good indicator of under-reporting of your income. Second, don’t forget that assets are defined as more than cash, excessive spending fails to protect non-liquid holdings like stocks, bonds, and even intellectual property.
To understand the full scope of your assets, it is worth investing in professional help to you value and locate them. This way you can have the knowledge you need to
II. Pursue Discovery
While you should be honest about your assets, you should not assume your spouse will be. The stress of even an amicable divorce can make even generally honest people do desperate things. Of course, you may be divorcing because of habitual dishonesty or financial abuse and in these cases, especially it is important to pursue the complete discovery process.
Like in any legal matter, discovery serves to expose the facts of the case. Under legal penalties, your spouse will be forced to hand over financial documents and confirm the value and identification of assets, joint or otherwise. If your divorce discovery includes a deposition, your spouse will be forced to answer questions honestly or risk perjury charges.
III. Be vigilant
If there is a single take-away you should gain while preparing to protect your assets, remember that playing fair does not mean being a pushover. While you should be open about your assets, you should also be savvy by having them professionally valued. While you should be honest, you should not assume the same about your spouse. And while you should hope for a smooth divorce process, you should prepare for a contested case. Do not give away valuable concessions because you believe it will make the process “easier.” Let your lawyer determine when is the best strategical moment to do this. Negotiating on your own without the participation, or knowledge, of your lawyer can be costly in the long run, and may not make the process any shorter or smoother.
Consult with a skilled family law attorney to make navigating hearings and court-dates easier, all while protecting what is rightfully yours.