Property Division: What Happens If My Spouse Has Missing Assets?

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

When going through a divorce, it becomes extremely important to have the most recent documentation of all assets and debts, especially if you suspect some have mysteriously disappeared or suspect your spouse is accumulating a significant amount of debt in a short period of time.

All assets and debts are presumed to be marital property. For example, if you have stocks, IRAs, 401(k)s, savings accounts or other investments, you will need to have the most accurate accounting of their value regardless of whether it is solely in your name or your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s name. The court will order an equitable distribution of all property, including real estate, unless a party can show it is premarital by way of a gift from someone other than the spouse or was bequeathed to you.

During the pendency of the dissolution, the parties are prohibited from disposing of or selling assets with a value over $500.00. The courts will look back to assets disposed of or debts accumulated for one year prior to the divorce proceedings. Should either party be found to have removed, depleted or otherwise hidden assets, they could be held in contempt of court. Additionally, any assets deemed to have been disposed of can be included in the marital estate and subject to equitable division.

Equitable division does not mean a strict 50/50 split. The court will take other factors into consideration, including whether one of the parties significantly diminished or exhausted some or all assets. There are a few exceptions to these rules, one of which is a depletion of an asset to pay reasonable costs. A qualified family law attorney will be able to discuss your concerns and advise you of the best recourse available.