Hidden assets and divorce in Florida: Three tips

An attempt to hide assets during divorce is not uncommon. Having a better understanding of what falls within the purview of marital assets in Florida and how to fight back against attempts to hide assets can help better ensure you get your fair share of property.

Getting a divorce is an emotional and legal rollercoaster. This rollercoaster can include extra stomach flipping turns if you believe that your spouse is hiding assets in an attempt to short you of your fair share of a divorce settlement. Although your spouse's attempts can make the divorce process more complicated, they can be thwarted.

In order to overcome these attempts, it is important to understand exactly what qualifies as marital property. The definition can vary from state to state, as divorce is a creature of state law. As such, the following is specifically designed to apply to divorces in Florida.

What do Florida courts consider as marital property?

Florida state law defines marital assets and liabilities to include anything "incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly." It also includes any enhanced value of an asset that was either spouse's property prior to the marriage, certain gifts and retirement assets as well as all real and personal property.

Property that is not split during divorce is referred to as nonmarital property. This can include assets and liabilities gained prior to the marriage and, if kept separate from marital funds, any additional assets or liabilities gained during the marriage through the use of these nonmarital assets. An inheritance, if kept separate, is also considered nonmarital property as well as any property that is excluded through the use of a written agreement like a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

It is important to note that the court generally operates with the presumption that property is marital property.

What if a spouse is hiding assets?

Unfortunately, hiding assets during divorce is not uncommon. Those who find themselves in a situation where they believe their future ex is hiding assets can benefit from the following tips:

  • Do not give up. If you think your spouse is hiding assets, do not give up. It may cut down on time and effort to just move forward with the divorce and not look back, but it will hurt your future financial security. Your spouse is hiding something that is rightfully yours. Take the time to better ensure you get what your fair share.
  • Dig in. Take a moment to review your records. You may be able to find some clues as to where your spouse is hiding these assets. Look for any new bank accounts, business interests or property.
  • Think outside the box. Sometimes, the standard approach is not the best route. A recent article in the New York Times shared the story of a couple going through a divorce where the husband was accused of hiding over $400 million in assets. The wife fought back. She interviewed attorneys until she found one that would help her find these assets and came at the husband from two different legal angles. Instead of just moving forward with the divorce proceeding, she also initiated a civil suit. In this case, the husband attempted to remove the wife's rightful position as co-owner of various business interests. She sued to re-establish herself as a co-owner. This multilayered approach ultimately worked in her favor.

Although the exact strategy to uncover hidden assets will vary with each unique situation, the above information can serve as a starting point. Those who are in this situation are wise to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can tailor the process to meet your needs and better ensure a more favorable outcome.

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