Sometimes, divorcing spouses play a type of financial shell game with their finances -- they claim ownership of certain funds and assets when it benefits them and then disavow that same ownership when it's inconvenient for their divorce.
That's particularly true among families that hold a lot of investments or assets together, especially if some of those assets and investments happen to be overseas.
It's a problem that makes it even more critical to talk to an attorney who can work with forensic accountants and other financial advisers to uncover the documentation that you need to get a fair divorce settlement.
Take for example the case of a Florida woman who had to appeal the trial court's refusal to grant her permanent alimony and it's characterization of the stock listed in her husband's name as nonmarital assets -- and therefore not subject to division between the couple. She also appealed the court's verdict that denied her reasonable attorney fees and ordered her to jointly pay some property fees with her ex-husband.
The problem with properly accounting for all of the family assets had to do with the fact that some of the family's holdings were in Taiwan. The husband's father had put significant assets in his son's name to avoid certain taxes in Taiwan, but wanted to claim ownership again when the son was going through a divorce. When the assets were examined in a Brazilian court for another reason, nobody claimed ownership.
Attorneys say that this shell game with financial holdings can be particularly common among certain Latin American and Asian cultures where assets change hands among family members frequently, depending on what benefit is being sought.
It's important for divorcing couples to understand that this can quickly evolve into fraud in divorce court -- whether it's a culturally common practice or not, the assets have a true owner and that true ownership is important when it comes to divorce proceedings. Neither an attorney nor the court can knowingly turn a blind eye to any suspected fraud when it comes to the possibility of misrepresentation of ownership. Nor will any savvy attorney allow a client to be victimized with an unfair divorce settlement by that kind of financial misrepresentation.
An attorney can provide more information on some of the more complex issues of high-asset divorce.
Source: Florida Record, "Florida attorney says failing to admit ownership of funds common in divorce cases," Charmaine Little, June 02, 2017