A common fear of many people going through divorce is that their spouse has hidden marital assets, either prior to or during the divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, this fear is sometimes justified. Although Michigan law clearly prohibits one party hiding marital assets to the other party’s detriment, that doesn’t always stop the behavior. Whether concealment of assets is motivated by greed, malice, or some other factor, Michigan courts have means of punishing the offender and making the injured spouse whole.
In Michigan, parties to a divorce are obligated to disclose all of their assets so that a judge can fully evaluate and dispose of the marital property. Marital property is to be divided equitably and fairly. However, “equitable” doesn’t always mean “equal,” particularly when one party has failed to disclose, or actively concealed, marital assets.
The courts consider many factors in their pursuit of fairness in dividing marital property, such as the length of the marriage, earning abilities of each spouse, and the contributions of each spouse to the marital estate. Deceptive conduct, such as the concealment of assets, is certainly something the courts take into account in the division of property. The court has the discretion to award all of the hidden assets to the defrauded party, as well as the attorney fees that he or she incurred to uncover the property and bring it to the court’s attention. Although the court’s focus is on the overall fairness of the property division, and not on punishing one party, hiding assets can have very serious consequences for the fraudulent party if he or she is caught.
The services of a skilled family law attorney are critical to ensuring that a deceptive spouse doesn’t get away with concealing marital property. An experienced Michigan family law lawyer knows the right questions to ask during the discovery phase of the case, during which parties seek information from each other through written questions (interrogatories), in-person questioning under oath (depositions), and other means. It’s important not to become so consumed with bringing hidden property to light that you spend more to find it than it’s actually worth. Effective attorneys know how to efficiently wield the the various tools in their discovery “toolbox,” and discuss with their clients the costs and likely benefits of each.
What if assets are so well hidden that they don’t come to light until after the divorce judgment is final? The Michigan Court Rules do provide for relief from a judgment in the case of fraud, but it’s important not to delay in contacting your attorney; the request for relief must be made within a year from the date the judgment was entered.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Metro Detroit Divorce Attorney
In his more than thirty years of practice, Plymouth, MI family law attorney Carlo Martina has learned how to ask the right questions and get the answers needed to make sure his clients receive truly equitable property awards in their divorces. To schedule a consultation, call (734) 254-1140 or complete our contact form.