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Can I be charged for lying about my income or assets in divorce court?


Can I be charged for lying about my income or assets in divorce court?

Going through a divorce can be an incredibly stressful and emotional time. When assets and money are involved, some spouses may feel tempted to be less than truthful about their financial situation in order to get a better settlement. However, lying under oath or intentionally hiding assets is illegal and can have serious consequences if discovered.

In this article, we’ll break down the laws regarding perjury and asset concealment in divorce proceedings. We’ll look at what kinds of actions could get you charged with a crime, what penalties you may face, and some practical tips for avoiding trouble during your divorce.


Perjury refers to the act of intentionally lying while under oath. This includes lying in written documents submitted to the court as well as oral testimony. Family court operates on the honor system – spouses are expected to provide honest and complete disclosures about their finances. If you sign a sworn statement or testify to something that is false, you could be charged with perjury. Some examples of perjury in a divorce case include:

  • Lying about your income on financial affidavits
  • Failing to disclose assets on mandatory asset schedules
  • Denying the existence of hidden accounts or assets under oath
  • Misrepresenting the value of assets like real estate, businesses, etc.

Perjury is a felony offense in most states. If convicted, you may face fines of up to $10,000 and several years in prison depending on the laws in your jurisdiction. Some states also allow the judge to consider perjury as a factor when deciding alimony and the division of marital property – meaning you could end up with a less favorable settlement if caught lying under oath.

Asset Concealment

Hiding assets in a divorce is illegal even if you don’t outright lie about it under oath. Spouses have a duty to fully disclose all marital property and debts. Intentionally concealing or undervaluing assets could lead to criminal charges for fraud, larceny, or embezzlement. Some examples of asset concealment include:

  • Transferring money to friends or relatives to “hold” during the divorce
  • Cashing out investments or retirement accounts and hiding the money
  • Failing to disclose offshore accounts and assets
  • Only disclosing joint accounts while hiding accounts in your name only
  • Underreporting self-employment income or business assets

The penalties for asset concealment vary by state but often include hefty fines and even jail time. You may also have to pay your ex-spouse’s legal fees related to uncovering the hidden assets. The judge may award 100% of concealed assets to your spouse as punishment. Bottom line – don’t hide assets!

How Can Assets and Lies Be Discovered?

Wondering how you’ll get caught if you do decide to fudge the numbers or hide assets? Rest assured, experienced divorce attorneys have ways of uncovering the truth:

  • Subpoena financial records from banks, employers, business partners – if the paper trail doesn’t match your disclosures, you’ll have some explaining to do.
  • Hire a forensic accountant to analyze your lifestyle, income, and expenses and determine if everything adds up.
  • Depose third parties such as business partners, bookkeepers, friends and family to try to uncover concealed assets.
  • Thoroughly investigate real estate, vehicle, and business ownership records which are public in most states.
  • File motions to compel if you’re believed to be withholding evidence or disobeying disclosure orders.

Savvy divorce lawyers have an arsenal of tools at their disposal to dig up the truth. Even if you make an honest mistake or omission, it can look extremely suspicious to a judge. Transparency and honesty are always the best policies when disclosing divorce finances.

What Should You Do If You Hid Assets or Lied?

Let’s say you already lied about money under oath or hid assets, and now you’re worried about the consequences. Here are some options to consider:

  • Consult with a criminal defense attorney – they can advise you of your rights and legal options based on the specific details of your situation.
  • Consider coming clean and disclosing the concealed assets or admitting to the lies. While this will anger your spouse, judges often look more favorably on honesty than continued deception.
  • See if your divorce attorney can negotiate immunity or a favorable settlement in exchange for full disclosure at this stage.
  • Prepare to defend yourself vigorously in court if the lies or fraud are exposed by your spouse’s attorney – you’ll need an experienced litigator in your corner.
  • Be ready to face penalties – you may have to pay fines, legal fees, or even serve jail time depending on the severity of the deception.

There are no easy options once you’ve crossed legal lines during a divorce. Speaking with an attorney to weigh the pros and cons of each approach is highly recommended. Don’t compound your mistakes by continuing to conceal or deceive – be prepared for the truth to come out.

Tips to Avoid Perjury and Fraud in Your Divorce Case

Now that you know the serious legal risks, here are some tips to keep everything above-board during your divorce proceedings:

  • Be 100% truthful on all documents and testimony. It’s not worth the legal hassles and reputation damage if caught lying.
  • Fully disclose all assets upfront even if you think something may be considered separate property. Let your lawyer handle property division arguments.
  • If you have concerns about disclosing safety-related information like domestic abuse or child custody issues, speak with your attorney about appropriate safeguards.
  • Don’t try to take revenge on a cheating spouse by hiding money – courts don’t look kindly on spiteful behavior.
  • Keep thorough records of all income, assets, debts, and expenditures. Sloppiness can appear like deception.
  • Understand that forensic accountants can dig deep – don’t assume you can outsmart them.
  • Be cooperative during discovery and answer questions honestly even if it means disclosing uncomfortable information.
  • Don’t discuss embellishing or concealing anything with friends or family – it could come back to haunt you.
  • If in doubt, disclose it and let your divorce lawyer handle the details.

While it’s natural to want the best settlement possible, lies and concealment often do more harm than good in divorce cases. Being transparent from the start and working with an experienced attorney to represent your interests is the smartest approach.

Speak With a Divorce Attorney Before Court Proceedings

Navigating a divorce with assets and complex finances on the line is tricky. Before you end up in a courtroom answering questions under oath, speak with a local divorce attorney about your rights and options. An experienced lawyer can help you:

  • Understand your state’s disclosure laws and penalties for perjury/fraud.
  • Determine separate vs marital property and how to make a claim on assets.
  • Complete accurate financial affidavits and asset schedules.
  • Gather documentation and records to support your position.
  • Prepare for questions about your finances and testimony.
  • Negotiate a fair settlement of assets and debts.
  • Avoid missteps that could raise red flags of concealment.

Don’t go through a divorce involving disputed assets without legal representation. An attorney can help protect your interests while keeping you on the right side of the law.

The Bottom Line

Being tempted to fudge the numbers or hide assets during divorce is understandable. However, perjury and asset concealment have serious criminal and financial consequences if discovered. It’s not worth the legal hassles and reputation damage. Be honest upfront, disclose completely, and let your lawyer handle advocating for your rightful share. Maintaining integrity and transparency is always the wisest approach when divorce and money collide.


Hiding Assets During a Divorce | Nolo

Is It Fraud to Hide Assets During Divorce?

Perjury in Family Court: Why It Is a Big Deal

Questioning the Other Party During a Divorce | Nolo

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