Divorce is as much a financial blow as it is an emotional one. Alimony and child support may take a large, even unreasonable amount out of your monthly paycheck. Conversely, if your income is much smaller than your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s, or if you stayed at home to look after the family, you might find yourself in dire financial straits if you are not awarded a just settlement.
You deserve a divorce settlement that takes into account your circumstances and your contributions to the marriage— and financial, logistical, or emotional. In this article, you will find three steps to follow to protect your assets in divorce and reach the settlement that is best for you.
I. Be Open and Honest—and Savvy: On your end, it is important not to hide any of your assets. Hiding your assets, or even appearing to hide your assets, may be used against you in court by your spouse and his or her counsel.
In fact, most people’s attempts to hide their assets—by spending large amounts of cash—fail to improve their divorce outcomes. This is for two reasons. First, because Massachusetts family courts take into account income (earnings) rather than expenditure (spending). Second, because assets are defined as more than cash, excessive spending fails to protect non-liquid holdings like stocks, bonds, and even intellectual property.
To understand the full scope of your assets, it is worth investing in professional help to value and to locate them.
II. Pursue Discovery: While you should be honest about your assets, you should not assume your spouse will be. The stress of even an amicable divorce can make people do desperate things—even honest people. Of course, you may be divorcing because of habitual dishonesty or financial abuse. In these cases, especially it is important to pursue the discovery process.
Like in any legal matter, discovery serves to expose the facts of the case. Under legal penalties, your spouse will be forced to hand over financial documents to confirm how much and where assets, joint or otherwise, are. If your divorce discovery includes a deposition, your spouse will be forced to answer questions honestly or risk perjury charges.
III. Be Ready to Fight: If there is a single take-away you should remember while preparing to protect your assets, it is this: playing fair does not mean being a pushover. While you should be open about your assets, you should be savvy by having them professionally valuated. While you should be honest, you should not assume the same about your spouse. And while you should hope for a smooth divorce process, you should prepare for the opposite. Do not give away valuable concessions because you believe it will make the process “easier.” It will be costly in the long run, and may not make the process any shorter or smoother.
Consult with a skilled family law attorney, like those at our firm, to make navigating hearings and court-dates easier, all while protecting what is rightfully yours.