Divorces are usually complicated so hiring a divorce lawyer is a smart move. The process is difficult in the best situations and sometimes can even be quite hostile. In either situation, you may find yourself worried about how the assets will be divided. It makes sense to protect yourself.
Some people, especially in contentious divorces, are angry and want to keep their spouses from getting their fair share. Or one spouse may have earned more of the marital estate and feel that he/she is entitled to more than the courts will allow. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property is divided in a fair manner given the circumstances, rather than equally between spouses. For some people, this seems unfair and they may try to hide some of their assets. Hiding assets is illegal and they will probably be caught.
First, your spouse will typically have a good idea of the marital and your personal assets. Second, at the beginning of divorce proceedings, there is a discovery period where spouses or their attorneys question each other about assets. They also question third parties, like banks and employers, who are required to give truthful information. You will probably be questioned under oath or provide a sworn statement, so if you are caught giving false information or holding back information this will certainly harm you in the distribution process.
Even though hiding assets is unacceptable, you should take steps to protect yourself, especially if you feel that the divorce will be acrimonious. The point at which you begin to realize that divorce is inevitable is a good time to talk to a divorce lawyer. Your lawyer can guide you through the process and help protect your property. In addition, take action to:
Close joint credit accounts
Close accounts that have both of your names on them to protect yourself from extravagant spending by your spouse. Those debts could end up being your shared responsibility.
Open accounts in your own name
You will want to start building individual credit as soon as possible and the first step is opening your own banking account and some sort of credit account. If you are able to do so without leaving balances too low to cover checks and other payments, you can withdraw a reasonable amount of money from a joint account and use it to start your own personal account. You will need money for living expenses and for legal or divorce fees, so you need to be sure that you have access to it.
Inventory assets and be alert for missing items
Start making a list of all the property and financial assets that you know about, including jewelry, trusts and other special types of financial documents. If you observe that things are missing, make note of them. In addition, if you are concerned that your spouse could take or damage items, you should put them in a safe place and talk to your divorce lawyer about how to protect them.
Protect personal property
Some property, such as jewelry or sentimental items, should be physically hidden if you are worried that your spouse would take them or maliciously damage them. You need to disclose these activities to your lawyer to learn how they need to be handled.
Finding a divorce lawyer is a good first move when dealing with any type of divorce. When the divorce is contentious or large amounts of money or assets are involved, having a lawyer of your own is even more important.
Divorce Lawyer William D. Schroeder, Jr. has over 30 years of experience helping people deal with divorce in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks. He is knowledgeable and will guide you through the process, advise you how to protect your property and help you make the process as simple as possible. Contact us today at 215-822-2728 for a consultation or information.
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