The conventional wisdom is that, in a California divorce, “property is divided 50/50.” While this statement is fairly accurate as a crude approximation, the reality is often far more complex. It gets even more complicated, however, when the marital finances are complicated – after all, you have to know how much a marital estate is worth before you can fairly divide it. California divorce proceedings typically involve certain financial disclosures during the discovery process.
The Discovery Process
The discovery process occurs prior to a trial. In discovery, each party is entitled to demand information from the other party to use as evidence or simply to contribute to the requesting party’s general understanding of the case. A party may demand the production of documents, for example, or he may demand that the other party submit to cross-examination out of court but under oath (known as a deposition). Demands can also be issued to third parties.
If a party refuses to comply with a discovery demand, the party making the demand can ask the court to issue an order compelling compliance. Failure to comply with a court order constitutes contempt of court, which can result in various penalties including jail time.
The following are some of the financial disclosure documents that are routinely demanded during divorce proceedings:
Federal and state tax returns;
Evidence of public assistance payments or entitlements such as social security;
Evidence of financial liabilities, such as alimony obligations to an ex-spouse;
Bank account statements, including separate accounts;
Credit card statements;
Personal property inventory (jewelry, for example);
Stocks, bonds and other financial assets;
Retirement and pension accounts;
Deeds and titles to real estate and motor vehicles;
Insurance policies, including life insurance; and
A list of recurring expenses (car payments, etc.).
Challenging a Financial Disclosure
Every financial disclosure must be accompanied by a signed declaration asserting that it is accurate. Any important and intentional inaccuracies can result in fines, contempt of court and/or criminal charges for perjury. A party can challenge a disclosure in court and seek to prove that it is inaccurate or incomplete through evidence and cross-examination of witnesses.
Types of Lies to Look for
A spouse may lie about:
exactly what assets he or she owns;
the true value of an asset;
the source of an asset (claiming to have inherited an asset so that it is classified as separate property rather than marital property, for example); or
the amount of a debt.
In addition to directly lying, a spouse may attempt to conceal information. He may try to suppress documents that would reveal his ownership of an asset. He may even attempt to conceal information about his finances for reasons unrelated to the divorce -- information that would reveal financial misconduct or tax evasion, for example. An experienced California divorce lawyer can help you spot inconsistencies that may be papering over fraud.
Contact Us Today
If you are undergoing a divorce, if you anticipate becoming a party to divorce, and especially if you fear that your spouse is concealing assets from you or that your spouse will accuse you of concealing assets, call CKB Vienna today or contact us online so that we can schedule a meeting to discuss your case. We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.