11 Oct 17

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

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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.

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