What Happens if You Lie About Your Finances in a Divorce?
At the beginning of a divorce, each party is asked to fill out a financial affidavit. This formal document is typically required in divorce litigation, because it provides the official information about the finances of each spouse, allowing the court to fairly divide assets, award alimony, and make other important decisions.
In some cases, individuals lie about their finances, omitting important information or misrepresenting their financial status. Lying on formal court documents is never a good idea, especially where money is involved.
There May Be Criminal Penalties for Failing to Disclose Finances
Being dishonest about your finances in court can lead to serious penalties, including criminal charges and even jail time. However, the truth of the matter is, the severity of your punishment depends on the conditions of the lie and how lenient your judge chooses to be.
What If I Accidentally Left Out Financial Details?
Intentionally lying on your divorce papers about your finances is fundamentally the same as lying to the court, which is against the law. Still, financial matters can be complex, and if you accidentally miscalculate or omit information, the court may prove more lenient and choose to dole out a simple slap on the wrist, so to speak.
Why Is Full Financial Disclosure Important in Divorce?
In a divorce, it is required that both parties provide full disclosure, informing the court of all income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. If one spouse lies about anything associated with their finances, it could significantly affect the way the assets are divided, or how much alimony or child support is paid.
In short, lying about your finances could lead to undercutting your soon-to-be ex-spouse, which the court will not look kindly on. Even if your mistake was an innocent one, you may still face penalties.
Consequences of a Spouse Lying About Finances
There can be several outcomes for those who lie about their financial situation during a divorce case:
Reprimand from Judge: The repercussions for lying about your finances could be as simple as a stern talking-to from the judge. A judge may take it upon him or herself to openly reprimand you for presenting misinformation.
Judge Will Award More to the Other Spouse: It is also possible the court will decide to provide more for your spouse, either in the asset division or in alimony. If the court had decided to split your assets in half, but it became clear you were hiding $10,000, the court may decide to award the hidden funds entirely to your spouse. Or, the judge may reconsider the split at 60/40, in your spouse’s favor.
Found Guilty of Perjury: In the worst-case-scenario, the judge may find you guilty of perjury. Lying to the court is illegal, and can be considered a criminal act punishable by costly fees, and even jail time. Typically, the court will only treat the crime as perjury when a large amount of money was hidden.
These types of cases are far from black and white. The outcome depends greatly on the judge presiding over your case, and the way in which your financial mistake happened and was presented. The simple truth is, it is always better to be honest with your divorce attorney and to the court, and lying on official documents is illegal and should never be practiced or encouraged.
Need Guidance During a Divorce?
If you have concerns about your finances and are facing divorce, our legal team at McKinley Irvin encourages you to contact our divorce attorneys. We represent our clients with integrity and tenacious advocacy. Our lawyers have the experience and skill necessary to defend your interests and fight for your fair share of assets in your divorce or separation. With our practice’s focus on family and divorce law, each of our attorneys is well-equipped to handle any legal matter dealing with property division, legal separation, divorce, child custody and support.
For help with your divorce, contact McKinley Irvin at one of our Washington offices in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Everett, Vancouver, or Puyallup.