Putting your financial cards on the table in a divorce
I recently came across an old news story from 2001 about a divorce in California in which a wife won the lottery for 1.3 million dollars and filed for divorce eleven days later. During the divorce process, she never disclosed her lottery winnings to her husband and, in fact, went to great pains to hide them, including changing her mailing address to her mother’s home so as to prevent any notices or mail getting to husband. Not until two years after the divorce was finalized did the ex-husband inadvertently receive a solicitation mailing from a company that offers a lump sum payout on lottery proceeds. Soon after, the ex-husband brought his ex-wife to account her hiding the lottery winnings. The Court not only sided with the ex-husband, but it also ordered that the wife was to turn over all of the lottery proceeds as a punitive measure for her lack of truthfulness.
In a divorce, the marital estate is measured by the date of marriage as a beginning point and the date of separation as the endpoint. Any money acquired during that period (with some exceptions – i.e. inheritance) becomes part of the marital estate and must be divvied up according to the laws of the state where the divorce is filed. During the divorce process, there is usually a discovery period – meaning a time period in which the parties exchange information and disclose all assets, debts, etc. This process can be informal and may only take a short time to complete if the marital estate is small; but sometimes extensive litigation ensues when the parties are wealthy or if the finances of the marriage are complicated. Either way, this process allows for each party to know what “cards” the other side is holding and it allows each person to make the most informed decision possible while litigating the matter. Most divorces end in some kind of agreement – called a Property Settlement Agreement in Pennsylvania. In almost every agreement of this kind, there is language in it affirming that each party has fully disclosed the financial “cards” they are holding
Many times, there is a level of distrust among the parties in a divorce – sometimes because of infidelity or bad finances or a number of other reasons. Many clients, even after participating in discovery and ultimately ending the marriage through a Property Settlement Agreement, remain suspicious that there was some financial source that remained undisclosed by their wayward spouse. If those suspicions become fact after receiving new information, it is possible to reopen the divorce. This is usually quite difficult to do, but as can be seen by the lottery winning case from California, it is possible and may sometimes be very lucrative.
If you are in need of an attorney in Pennsylvania for your divorce to unravel the finances and obtain a fair settlement in your divorce, LaMonaca Law should be the first call. At LaMonaca Law, we have a team of knowledgeable and experienced attorneys who only practice Family Law – making it the place to call if you have any questions in Montgomery County, Delaware County, Chester County, and beyond.