What Happens If You Lie About Your Finances During Divorce?

After a petition for divorce is filed, most parties are asked to fill out a sworn inventory. The inventory is a listing of all of the following:

  • Antiques/artwork and collections
  • Bonuses
  • Brokerage and mutual fund accounts
  • Cash and bank accounts
  • Closely held business interests
  • Club memberships
  • Contingent assets
  • Contingent liabilities
  • Credit cards
  • Deferred compensation benefits
  • Electronics and computers
  • Household furniture and fixtures
  • Insurance and annuities
  • Jewelry and other personal items
  • Livestock
  • Margin loans
  • Mineral interests
  • Motor vehicles
  • Notes and IOUs
  • Pledges
  • Real estate
  • Reimbursements
  • Retirement benefits
  • Safe deposit boxes
  • Sporting goods and firearms
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Stock options
  • Storage facilities
  • Travel award benefits

The inventory also includes listings of any separate property, mixed assets, children’s assets, trust and estate assets, and assets held for someone else. Also included are federal and state income taxes owed or any refunds.

As you can see, this is a very comprehensive document. Each spouse swears that this is a full and complete listing of the community estate and also of their separate property.

The inventory is put into a spreadsheet and is used for mediation, trial, and finally, to prepare the final decree of divorce which awards assets and liabilities to each spouse. The spouse’s separate property is confirmed, and any assets belonging to minor children are assigned to a spouse (or other party) to manage until the children turn 18.

If items are inadvertently omitted from the process from the inventory to the decree, those assets and liabilities are undivided. A formal motion to divide those items must be put before the court, and the parties either agree or the court decides who gets those assets.

If items are deliberately omitted from the process, then the spouse that has omitted the items has committed fraud. The other spouse can file motions alleging fraud on the community estate. If the spouses cannot agree on an equitable division, the items and the behavior will be assessed by the court.

Routinely, divorce decrees include language that the parties have represented that they have made a full and complete disclosure of all assets and debts of the community and separate estates and that such disclosure is a material part of the consideration for the agreements set out.

Occasionally, language is used in the divorce decree to the effect that if items are omitted, they belong to the other spouse.

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