Divorce involves more than ending a marriage contract. It is also a formal legal process of dividing a married couple’s assets and determining custody of their children if any. If you are preparing to divorce in Tulsa, OK, and have concerns about the impending property division determination, it is crucial to understand how financial disclosure works and what you can expect from this stage of your divorce proceedings.
Properly conducted financial disclosure is the best way for both divorcing spouses can ensure a fair and reasonable property division determination under Oklahoma’s equitable distribution statute. However, it is crucial to not only understand your own obligations for the financial disclosure process but also how to determine whether your spouse has falsified any financial records or attempted to hide assets.
What Is Financial Disclosure?
A significant portion of your divorce proceedings will revolve around property division, regardless of whether you litigate your divorce or proceed with alternative dispute resolution. A financial disclosure statement is a complete accounting of financial records covering your separate property and marital assets. You must submit your financial disclosure statement under oath, meaning that any intentional obfuscation of relevant facts or leaving out any required information can constitute perjury, leaving you liable for criminal prosecution. The same rule applies to your spouse, so you should expect them to be equally forthcoming with their financial records during your divorce proceedings.
Your Tulsa, OK, divorce attorney can help you complete your financial disclosure statement. They can help you identify and list all the separate property you intend to claim and keep following your divorce and help you gather the records you will need to establish separate property ownership rights. When it comes to your marital assets, you and your spouse should ideally produce identical or very similar records that align to create a clear picture of all your shared assets and property.
Financial Disclosure and Equitable Distribution in Oklahoma
Oklahoma upholds an equitable distribution law, meaning the court determines the best possible property division determination based on what is most equitable, but not necessarily equal, for both spouses. The court will assess various elements of the couple’s marriage, including the financial contributions toward their shared finances and each others’ careers. For example, suppose one spouse earned a much lower income than the other but sacrificed job opportunities to support their spouse advancing in their own career. In that case, the court will strongly consider contributions like these in determining the most equitable distribution of the couple’s marital assets.
When one spouse is untruthful in their financial disclosure statement, this can lead to an inequitable distribution of property. While some such offenses may go unnoticed for quite some time, other obfuscations are more pronounced. Therefore, if you suspect that your spouse has engaged in any financial malfeasance or has attempted to hide the true nature of their finances in any way, it is vital to raise these concerns with your attorney.
How Spouses Hide Assets
Facing property division in divorce can be highly challenging for some individuals. Unfortunately, in some cases, a divorcing spouse may engage in unethical behaviors to shield their assets from division in their divorce. Some of the most commonly reported tactics used in attempts to hide assets from property division include:
- Bogus loans. A divorcing spouse could “loan” a considerable sum of money to a friend or relative with the intention of collecting the debt after they finalize their divorce.
- Deferring bonuses and commissions. A divorcing spouse may ask their boss to withhold a bonus check or commission payment until after they finalize their divorce to prevent it from being included with their income and thus subject to division.
- Intentionally wasting assets. If a spouse goes on a shopping spree or frivolously wastes marital funds to prevent equitable distribution in divorce, they may be held accountable for this through criminal prosecution, depending on the severity of their behavior.
- Siphoning cash. This practice typically involves one spouse periodically withdrawing cash from a shared bank account without the other spouse’s permission or knowledge.
These are just a few examples of how a spouse may attempt to circumvent their financial disclosure responsibilities. Suppose you believe that your spouse has engaged in such behavior. In that case, you should notify your Tulsa divorce attorney as soon as possible so they can help you appropriately address the situation.
What to Do if You Think Your Spouse Has Hidden Assets in Divorce
Attempting to hide assets in a divorce can easily lead to criminal penalties for fraud and perjury. If you believe your spouse has hidden assets, your attorney can help you determine the best strategy for handling the situation. One possibility is hiring an expert witness to conduct a thorough financial review of both of your records. A forensic accountant will know the signs that indicate your spouse has hidden assets of some kind and bring this information to the court’s attention.
Penalties for Hiding Assets in a Tulsa, OK, Divorce
If you reveal that your spouse has hidden assets and knowingly lied in their financial disclosure statement, this will likely lead to the judge overseeing your divorce remanding them to contempt of court. They could face a fine, a jail sentence, or both. It’s also possible for them to face further criminal prosecution depending on the severity of their actions. The judge may also award you a more significant share of your marital assets in proportion to what your spouse attempted to hide, and the judge will also likely require your spouse to pay any additional attorneys’ fees you incurred during your efforts to reveal their activities.
While some divorcing spouses may find the thought of dividing certain assets in divorce to be unconscionable, the reality is that hiding assets leads to far worse penalties, and the likelihood of succeeding with this type of activity is very low. If you want to approach your divorce case with confidence, secure legal representation from an experienced Tulsa divorce attorney who can help you ensure a fair and transparent financial disclosure process in your proceedings.