Divorce proceedings in Oklahoma courts require a discovery process, just like most other civil cases. If you are preparing to divorce in Tulsa and negotiation is off the table as an option, you should be bracing for the litigation process by hiring a reliable attorney to represent your side of the divorce case. If you and your spouse own significant assets and wealth, it’s even more necessary to hire an experienced Tulsa divorce attorney who can help you ensure a fair outcome under Oklahoma’s equitable distribution laws.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
Unlike community property laws that aim for a 50/50 split of marital assets in a divorce, equitable distribution laws strive to determine a fair division of a couple’s marital property. While equitable distribution laws generally include many more types of property as marital property, these laws typically leave less room for dispute following the issuing of a divorce order in an equitable distribution state like Oklahoma.
In any divorce, it’s vital for both of the divorcing spouses to be honest about the facts of their divorce, especially when it comes to their individual finances. Unfortunately, some divorcing spouses will attempt to hide their assets to minimize their financial losses in divorce. However, doing so can have dramatic consequences, even including jail time in some situations.
What If I Think My Ex Is Hiding Assets?
Exposing your spouse’s hidden assets is the only way to ensure a fair divorce settlement. If you have reason to believe that your spouse has any hidden assets, inform your Tulsa divorce attorney about your suspicions as soon as possible. You could have been listed as a beneficiary on certain accounts or have received some kind of notification about an asset your spouse acquired or an account that they opened without directly informing you about it.
Your attorney can provide specific advice for your situation based on the type of asset involved and how your ex may have hidden it. You have the right to request your spouse to disclose all of their financial records during divorce litigation discovery. If you think something is missing, your attorney will likely want to coordinate with a financial investigator to verify your suspicions.
Investigating Hidden Assets
There are many possible avenues for uncovering your spouse’s hidden assets. Tax returns are a great place to start if you and your spouse filed returns separately in recent years. Most people are honest when it comes to their taxes, but it’s always worth investigating if you have suspicions. Your spouse is far more likely to lie to you than they are to lie to the IRS, but verification is worth the effort to ensure a fair divorce settlement.
Checking account statements and any records of canceled checks can also be very illuminating if you want to uncover hidden assets. When you request all copies of your spouse’s financial documents, they must disclose everything, not just the accounts of which you were already aware. Your attorney and a financial investigator will want to thoroughly review these records, including savings account statements, dividends producing deposits, and unusual withdrawals or deposits. Such documents could all potentially uncover hidden assets subject to equitable distribution in your Tulsa divorce.
Check With the Courthouse
The Tulsa courthouse where your divorce proceedings take place may also be a great source of information if you need to uncover hidden assets for your divorce proceedings. For example, if your spouse applied for a loan from a bank or mortgage lender, a copy of their application to borrow funds will be on file at the courthouse. When an individual wants to borrow money from a financial institution, they must apply for the loan that includes a detailed list of their assets and properties. This list can be invaluable if you believe your soon-to-be-ex is hiding something, and you can be confident in its accuracy since it is a federal crime to lie on a loan application.
Potential Penalties for Hiding Assets in Oklahoma Divorce Proceedings
If you allege that your spouse is hiding assets to prevent losing portions of their value in your divorce proceedings, the court may demand your spouse testify under oath about these allegations. They may need to provide documents and other evidence to show their side of the allegations. If your spouse lies under oath, they could face harsh penalties, including fines and even jail time.
Additionally, lying in divorce proceedings to hide one’s assets could reflect poorly on the spouse responsible for doing so. The court will be much more likely to rule in favor of distributing a greater portion of the marital property to the spouse who was honest during divorce proceedings. Under Oklahoma’s equitable distribution laws, lying about assets or attempting to hide assets will be taken under strong consideration and could significantly diminish the guilty spouse’s settlement amounts.
Who Can Help Me Uncover My Spouse’s Hidden Assets?
When you have a strong reason to believe your spouse is not being honest in your divorce proceedings, your first line of defense is your Tulsa divorce attorney. Your attorney will manage the discovery process on your behalf and carefully review the available evidence to identify discrepancies and irregularities.
Some couples, particularly those with complex investments and high net worth, may hire financial advisors, investigators, and other experts to provide their professional opinions on the matter at hand. When it comes to assets hidden in divorce, these experts can employ various methods to uncover the paper trails that lead to the hidden assets.
In some cases, an attorney may recommend hiring a private investigator to follow a client’s spouse to determine how they are attempting to hide assets. In other cases, it may be necessary to contact the spouse’s employer to find out if the spouse has asked their boss to withhold an earned bonus or benefit disbursement until after their divorce is over to avoid having these earnings become subject to equitable distribution.
Ultimately, attempting to hide assets is never worth it, as any type of asset, property, or investment will have some kind of paper trail attached to it that can eventually be exposed. The potential gains of hiding assets pale in comparison to the possible penalties for getting caught doing so. Consult with your Tulsa divorce attorney about your specific concerns about hidden assets in your divorce case.