A critical part of the divorce process is property division where assets are divided between spouses based on several factors and their unique situations. All property is typically subject to equitable division including high-value assets, businesses, and investment yields. Because of this, it may be tempting to hide some assets from the court to protect personal financial interests but doing so could result in penalties and even criminal charges. So, what are the dangers of hidden assets during divorce? Keep reading to find out.
Equitable Division in Oklahoma
Oklahoma courts follow a formula called equitable division. Unlike other states, OK divorces do not involve community vs. marital property. Instead, the court places value on marital property and debts as a part of the marital estate and everything else is put into the separate property category.
This means that while community vs. marital property is not a key component of the process, property is divided into the marital estate and everything else. The marital estate is all property acquired during the marriage and/or things purchased with money from joint accounts. Separate property is everything a spouse may own before the marriage, after the divorce, or as the result of a direct inheritance or gift.
The property within the marital estate will go through the equitable division process which means that it will be split fairly and justly – not 50/50. One spouse may receive a larger share depending on their circumstances, or it may work out that both parties receive almost the same amount. Ultimately, that decision lies with the court.
The court determines the outcome of equitable division based on the following factors:
- The health of each spouse
- Any disabilities
- The contributions of each spouse to the household
- Employment or the opportunity for employment in the future
- Criminal history
- Alimony payment history
- Any conduct that may have increased or decreased the value of marital property
Conduct does not play a significant role unless it affects the value of the property or the health of the other party and children. For example, infidelity is not a factor unless the spouse used marital assets to sponsor activities with their romantic partner. However, on the other hand, if one spouse physically harms another or uses marital property to exploit or threatened their other party, the court may be inclined to take that into consideration.
Special Property and Assets in a Divorce
As mentioned previously, almost all property is subject to equitable division during a divorce. This includes real estate, valuables, businesses, and debts. In some divorce cases, unique assets may also be subject to division. For example, active-duty military spouses have pensions and benefits that may be divided by the court. Likewise, government employees and workers with retirement accounts are required to submit that information to the court during the equitable division process.
It is important to recognize that each divorce case is different and what makes a relationship one-of-a-kind also contributes to unique circumstances during a divorce. Because no two divorces are the same, it is crucial to consult an attorney before attempting to pursue a complex divorce.
Temptation to Conceal
Since high-value assets, pensions, debts, and other valuable property is vulnerable to equitable division, it is tempting to hide assets to protect them. Depending on state laws regarding property, spouses may attempt to hide assets differently.
Since Oklahoma is an equitable division state, spouses may feel uneasy about how much of their assets will go to the other party because it is not a 50/50 split. There are no guarantees regarding how much goes to which spouse, and it can be difficult to guess, and some people find the uncertainty frustrating.
This temptation is understandable, especially depending on the types of assets a spouse may own and their unique circumstances. However, regardless of anxiety or frustration with the unknown, hiding assets during a divorce can be charged as a crime with harsher consequences than splitting an asset with one’s ex-spouse.
The Consequences for Concealing Assets
Considering the divorce process in Oklahoma, one of the main concerns with cases where assets are hidden is the validity of the final decree. If the judge does not have all the information and documentation they need, they cannot make a valid decision. The judge also cannot make a fair decision that not only affects the divorcing parties but their families and futures as well.
The penalties for hiding assets depend on the way they are concealed and their value. If a spouse uses money laundering or other fraudulent methods, they face criminal penalties and may be the subject of a criminal investigation. If the value of the assets is high, the divorce case may need to be reevaluated which takes time and money to resolve. As punishment, the judge may order the spouse responsible le for concealment to pay more alimony and/child support or challenge their ability to maintain custody of their children.
There is also the risk of being held in contempt of court. If an individual fails to report their assets to the court, the court may issue an order to do so. Refusing to obey the court order is a crime and is punishable with jail time. Financial penalties are a common punishment for hiding assets during divorce as well.
These are serious charges that not only impact the divorce settlement but the future of the responsible party. Criminal charges do go on a permanent criminal record which is accessible by employers, landlords, and the general public in some cases. Do not attempt to conceal assets during a divorce – consult an attorney about your case to prevent mistakes or risks that could lead to serious punishment.
You Don’t Have to Face Divorce Alone
If you are pursuing a divorce, contact an attorney. A qualified lawyer can guide you through the process and prevent complications from occurring and handle any that may arise along the way. Hiding assets during a divorce is risky and unnecessary. An attorney can advocate for you and help you protect what matters from equitable division.
Contact our compassionate legal advocates at Simmons & Associates and put your divorce in good hands.