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Can a divorce be reopened if there wasn’t complete disclosure?

October 11, 2017 Our Blog

While New York law requires both parties to be honest and upfront about divorce proceedings, the sad truth is that sometimes parties lie during a divorce. They might want to keep marital property for themselves without giving the other party their share. They might refuse to answer questions or leave out critical information.

The issue of non-disclosure can often come into play when one party controls the finances during the marriage. That system might work fine during the marriage, but when the couple gets divorced, the party that’s left in the dark might have very little knowledge about the couple’s true assets and debts. Because divorce is an adversarial proceeding, the spouse controlling the information might not be forthcoming about what you own or where to find statements. They might think if they can finalize the divorce, there’s nothing that the other spouse can do in order to get their fair share of the marital assets.

You can reopen the divorce

The short answer is that yes, you can reopen a divorce if there wasn’t complete disclosure. Of course, there are reasons that it’s not always that simple. However, generally, the courts don’t want people to get away with being dishonest during divorce proceedings. For this reason, they typically allow a party to reopen a divorce when one party isn’t honest about assets during a divorce proceeding.

During the divorce

If you’re concerned about the other party trying to hide assets, there are steps that you can take during the divorce proceeding. These efforts might help you immediately during the divorce procedures, or they might set you up in order to bring the case back to court later on when you can prove the non-disclosure. If you’re concerned about the other party’s honesty in a divorce proceeding, you should take full advantage of discovery options while the divorce is pending.

That means you can ask the other party to sit for a deposition in order to testify about their assets under oath. Your attorney can ask them about what you own and where to find joint assets. If they don’t tell the truth, they can be in violation of perjury laws in addition to opening the door for you to raise issues with the court later if they try to hide assets. You can also ask the other party to answer written questions and produce documents that evidence your joint assets. If they’re not immediately truthful, this can open the door for you to raise future issues with the court.

If you don’t take the time and effort to conduct discovery, the other side might argue that they didn’t lie. They might just state that you never asked for the information. In any event, doing your due diligence during the divorce proceedings can help you preserve the right to go back to the court later when you have information that your ex-spouse didn’t tell the truth.

What’s the result if we go back to court?

If you go back to court, the result might be that the court awards you the full value of the hidden asset. For example, if the other side hid an account worth $15,000, the court might order them to pay you $15,000. They might also order the other side to pay you for your attorney fees and the cost of bringing the motion. On the other hand, the court might order no changes at all. Alternatively, they might order you to split the account.

Courts don’t like it when parties hide assets. In order to give parties an incentive to be honest and punish them when they’re not, the penalties for hiding assets are often severe. If you suspect a non-disclosure in your case, you can work with an experienced New York divorce attorney in order to work to document the non-disclosure and file the appropriate paperwork to ask the court to reopen the divorce.

Many couples enter into a divorce thinking it’s a great way to be free of one another for the rest of their lives, but that’s not how it works for many couples. If you have an alimony agreement or you share kids and custody as well as child support issues, you won’t ever be truly free of your spouse even when you divorce. The best thing you can do is come up with a divorce agreement you both agree to. Your entire divorce process is made much easier when you both agree to the terms and conditions, when you don’t fight about it, and when you make the situation easy by going into it with a good attitude.

Going into the divorce looking for a fight is a great way to make it more complicated, and that’s what so many people see when they get a divorce. You can come up with an agreement and sign the paperwork, and your paperwork will be filed and the divorce granted quickly and efficiently. What happens, though, when you later decide you don’t agree with the divorce agreement?

When You No Longer Agree to the Settlement

Just because you got what you wanted in your divorce doesn’t mean that’s what you’re happy with the rest of your life. The kids get older and you no longer need the same amount of money to help care for them. You get remarried and you know you don’t need your spouse to pay child support anymore when he’s struggling with his own job and you’re financially sound. You move across the country, or you decide to downsize and save money, or make decisions that allow you to change your settlement agreement.

Can that be changed? It can, and it’s not that difficult if you both agree to the changes. The best thing you can do if you want to change your divorce settlement is call your ex-spouse and discuss the changes. Let them know where you stand, why you want to make changes, or what is going on in your life to require you make these changes. See if your spouse is willing and able to go with you to the court to request these legal changes are made.

If you are both in agreement, you must do nothing more than go to the court and file paperwork asking to make a few changes. Outline the changes you want to make, sign the agreement, and the judge won’t spend too much time going over things. The judge just wants to know that you’re both in agreement with the new terms, and it’s not that difficult to go through with it at that point.

It’s when you’re not in agreement that things become difficult. It’s easier for both you and your ex to discuss the changes before you go to the court. It’s not uncommon for your ex to be more willing to negotiate and work with you to come up with new settlement terms if you have the good faith to discuss it ahead of time rather than serving him or her with papers without a heads up. Doing the job of making this call can make the entire situation a lot easier.

If you want to make the process even simpler, call an attorney to work with you to help make the process faster. You have options, and an attorney can help you come up with a satisfactory new agreement and have it made legal a lot faster. It’s a good idea to allow someone who is familiar with divorce settlements draft it and go over it, but you should both use different attorneys who have your best interests at heart. It’s not difficult to change the settlement when both parties agree, but it’s always easier to make the decision together.



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