A spouse who wants to get a legal separation or a divorce is not allowed to hide assets. They are required to disclose their assets and debts through a financial disclosure. After the spouses make a full and accurate financial disclosure to one another, they draft a separation agreement if they are getting legally separated. Legal separation involves the court ordering the separation and the spouses living in separate residences. The parties remain legally married. The spouses draft a marital separation agreement (MSA) if they are getting a divorce.
Providing the court with an agreement on the division of assets allows the court to quickly and easily divide assets according to the terms of the agreement. If the spouses do not form an agreement to do an uncontested divorce in Madison County, the court will divide the assets according to its determination of what is equitable and which party needs the resources. When a spouse intentionally fails to disclose their assets and presents false information to the other spouse, the court may sanction them with a financial penalty. If a spouse makes a false statement about assets to the court, a district attorney may prosecute the individual for perjury in the first degree. In Alabama, perjury is a class C felony.
If a spouse takes action to willfully freeze, hide, or destroy assets, the other spouse can seek to have the family law court issue an injunction, a restraining order, or mandate, order to take a certain action, against them. The court is usually more likely to issue an injunction than a mandate. A party can request a temporary injunction, which will last a certain amount of time, or a permanent injunction. The court may also sanction the spouse engaged in the wrongful action through a fine.
Manipulative actions include changing beneficiaries on life insurance or other insurance policies, changing beneficiaries on retirement plans, taking a spouse’s name off financial documents, removing a spouse from a bank account when the spouse had been on the bank account before, emptying bank accounts, running up credit or debit card bills, selling jointly owned stock without authorization or knowledge of the spouse, and destroying assets. Destruction can include ruining real property by failing to adequately maintain it or breaking personal property like a vehicle.
Other manipulative actions include transferring money between accounts without authorization or knowledge of the spouse, moving money to offshore accounts, investing in personal property like a boat without authorization or knowledge of the spouse, investing in cryptocurrencies or non-fungible tokens (NFTs) without the authorization or knowledge of the spouse, blocking access to assets by changing passwords, and conditioning access to assets by suddenly setting new terms. New terms might involve making the spouse abandon their vacation plans in order to withdraw money from a jointly owned savings account. A spouse who suspects their partner is destroying or blocking assets should obtain evidence. They should then move for an injunction, requesting a hearing on the matter. They should present the evidence in their motion for an injunction.
A divorce attorney in Birmingham can help an individual who is getting a legal separation or divorce determine what assets each party owns. Sometimes an attorney may hire a forensic accountant to track down the other party’s assets. If the spouses have minor children, it is important that the spouse who suspects financial wrongdoing not badmouth the other spouse in front of the children. This can damage the victim spouse’s right to custody. It can also negatively affect the wrongdoer’s relationship with the children. If the information turns out not to be true, the court may question the victim spouse’s truthfulness, or veracity, in later proceedings.
Certain assets of a spouse are separate property and cannot be awarded in a legal separation or divorce in Limestone County or anywhere else in the State of Alabama. These include property the spouse owned separately before marriage and property inherited by the spouse during the marriage. If the spouses signed a prenuptial agreement, the prenup may list additional property as unreachable by the other spouse. A spouse can request the court to examine the prenup for fairness or argue they signed the prenup under duress, extreme stress that would invalidate it as a contract. If the conditions for the formation of the prenup were problematic or the terms of the prenup are unfair, the court can strike all or some of the provisions of the prenup.
A family law attorney can review a prenup to determine how the court is likely to rule. A family law attorney can serve as a spouse’s legal representative as well as a consultant. When a person hires an attorney as a consultant, they can bring evidence and motions to the attorney to review. The attorney can examine them on an hourly rate and offer suggestions.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!