Why honesty is so important when dividing marital property

Dividing property fairly is only possible if both spouses abide by the law

One of the most important issues that a court will have to deal with during a contested divorce is how to divide the couple's property. Under Texas law, most property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered the property of both spouses. However, learning the extent of that property requires each party to a divorce to fully disclose their assets and liabilities. Without such financial disclosure, a fair division of property is almost impossible. As a recent survey that CNBC recently reported on shows, such honesty is likely to be less common both during and after marriage than it otherwise should be.

Major purchases hidden

The CreditCards.com survey found that financial deceit within marriage is widespread. Roughly 7.2 million Americans are estimated to have a bank account or credit card that they tried to conceal from a spouse or partner. Also, one in five Americans have made a purchase of $500 or more and then tried to hide it from their spouse.

Such serious instances of financial concealment during the course of a marriage do not bode well for financial honesty during divorce. Full financial disclosure is the law when a court is trying to fairly divide a couple's marital property, yet, as this survey shows, financial infidelity is highly prevalent during marriage and, one assumes, likewise fairly common during divorce.

Spotting fraud

Because financial disclosure during divorce is the law, people who try to conceal assets from an ex-spouse and the court are essentially committing an act of fraud. As such, the punishment for anybody who gets caught can be severe. In many cases, a judge may decide to award all of the hidden assets to the other party and may even order him or her to pay the wronged party's legal fees. In the very worst of cases, offenders could find themselves facing jail time.

According to Forbes, while some attempts at hiding assets are quite sophisticated, in many cases offenders leave behind considerable clues. An ex-spouse who appears defensive about financial questions or who suddenly reports a steep, unexplained decline in income may be trying to mislead the court. As Forbes also points out, many cases of fraud often involve a co-conspirator, such as a friend who agrees to "hold onto" an ex-spouse's yacht or car until the divorce is finalized. In many such instances, these co-conspirators, especially under oath, turn out to be the weak link in an ex-spouse's financial deceit and are unlikely to sacrifice their own livelihoods for the sake of a friend's greed.

Legal help

While many instances of financial fraud during divorce may not be overly sophisticated, such accusations are very serious and should be handled by an experienced family law attorney. A qualified attorney can assist anybody who has questions or concerns about their own divorce, including about how to ensure that they receive their fair share when it comes time to divide the couple's community property.