Ideas come in three varieties: good, bad, and whaaa?
- An example of a good idea is our country’s system of laws (at least for the most part).
- An example of a bad idea is Joseph Johann von Littrow’s idea1 to signal extraterrestrials by digging canals in the desert, filling the canals with kerosene, and lighting them on fire. He got a crater on the moon named for him, so withhold your scorn.
- An example of an idea that makes the listener say, “Whaaa?” is hiding assets before a Virginia divorce
Why is Hiding Assets Such a Terrible Idea?
Hiding money, bonds, jewelry or bank accounts before a divorce is almost as bad an idea as the Smith & Wesson bicycle2 (yup—since 2002). We picked the police bike on purpose, so you will connect the idea of hiding assets with the idea of a couple of Spanx-wearing police officers pedaling up at your place of business or house to arrest you. Hiding assets is illegal, since laws of discovery require you to make all your assets known to your spouse and the court.
Suppose you insist on hiding a bank account. You can expect to be deposed and your spouse’s lawyer will ask you about assets under oath. Suppose you dig in, and insist (err…lie) you have no bank account. You have committed two crimes: contempt of court and perjury. Think about that when you look up at the judge and claim to be a responsible parent worthy of either child custody or visitation.
Protecting Yourself…From Yourself
Your attorney is trying to protect you from your spouse, but also from yourself. You paid money (preferably not from a secret account) for your attorney’s best advice, so listen to it. You outsmart no one by trying to hide assets, and your spouse is entitled to equitable distribution of the assets from the marriage. The marriage has failed; you as a person do not need to fail by being underhanded or dishonest with your spouse. The assets you fairly share with her will also provide for your children. Hiding assets when your own children are at stake is almost as bad an idea as Earring Magic Ken,3 the Barbie Doll whose time never should have come.
Types of Property in Marriage
Virginia distinguishes three types of property in a marriage:
- Marital property—Assets both real and intangible that came into the marriage after the wedding but before a legal separation
- Separate property—This is all property, real and personal, that either party had before the marriage, received during the marriage but not from the spouse, or acquired as a result of a sale of separate property
- Part marital and part separate property—This is a tangled web that essentially tries to extricate and identify the amount of effort one spouse made toward bringing the real or personal property into the marriage
In the Code of Virginia, all of this is discussed in exquisite and excruciating detail under Title 20, Domestic Relations, Chapter 6, Divorce, Affirmation and Annulment, § 20-107.3.
If you have hired a lawyer to handle your divorce, let your lawyer wrestle with protecting your assets under these three categories. If you are stressed out from the divorce process and unable to sleep, reading Section 20-107.3 Subsection 3 is a good idea. A bad idea? Bathing inside whales to cure rheumatism.4
Penalties for Hiding Your Assets
Despite all our advice, suppose you insist on hiding assets from your spouse, your spouse’s lawyer, your spouse’s lawyer-hired investigator, the judge, and the police (Those are a lot of people to hide from). What’s the risk?
In Virginia the penalties can be painful. You can face jail time, financial sanctions, and a notable diminishing of the judge’s good graces. You can expect your spousal support payment to be higher than if you had been honest. Hiding assets from your own attorney also endangers your relationship with the attorney, since the judge can assume the attorney was complicit in what you were doing.
Take Action: Consult with The Firm For Men
Taking action during a marriage, however difficult the marriage is, does not mean hiding assets. It means having a firm understanding of all the finances, from checking accounts to mutual funds. Neither spouse should leave the other ignorant, nor should they cede responsibility for understanding all the finances. Consider, for example, a tax refund that arrives in the tax year after your divorce: you are entitled to a portion of that refund under Virginia law. If you left your wife to file the taxes, you may never know you had part of a refund coming to you.
When contemplating a divorce, get good legal advice from real lawyers ready to help defend your rights and protect you from bad ideas. The Firm for Men, at 757-383-9184, is ready to help you. Contact us today – we serve all of Hampton Roads, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and beyond!