Many a previously loving marriage has ended in failure and, unfortunately, a degree of acrimony. When this happens, it can lead to bad feelings on both sides and may complicate matters at settlement time. In this case, one of the parties may decide to protect their position and may fail to reveal some of their assets in an attempt to minimise the damage. If you suspect that your 'ex' may be less than forthcoming, what can you do?
If a case like this goes in front of the Family Law Court, the judges will expect both parties to be full, frank and honest. They have a duty of disclosure to the court, which means that they need to advise opposing counsel about any information, documentation, financial or property assets that may be relevant. After all, the court will want to be in full possession of this data so that they can judge fairly for both parties.
If an individual had amassed a significant estate before the marriage, then the spouse may not have been aware of the full extent. Consequently, they may decide to forget some details conveniently and may not disclose that they are the beneficiary in a complicated real estate transaction. The outgoing spouse may not have been aware of this detail, and they may be confident that they can hide (and therefore protect) the benefit.
However, the courts will take a dim view here. If they subsequently become aware of the existence of that asset, then they may make a punitive judgement in favour of the other party. They may find the individual in contempt of court and could award costs against them. In the very worst-case scenario, they could even impose some jail time, but this is a very rare occurrence.
Typically, both parties are required to disclose any information related to assets that they may have recently disposed of. It may have been tempting to quietly transfer ownership to a third party in the run-up to separation, but the court will want to know about this and may include its value in a settlement.
If you suspect that your former spouse has been less than open about the true extent of their estate, talk with a family law consultant. They can bring in a forensic accounting expert as needed to help get to the bottom of it.