n many marriages, it is not unusual for one spouse to have access to more information about the finances. This may arise when one spouse runs a business. It is common for one spouse to have the primary responsibility of managing the accounts and paying the bills. When a divorce occurs, this can often leave one spouse in the dark about where the assets are held and how much money is out there. The good news is that there are many tools available to your divorce lawyer to learn about your assets and whether your spouse has been honest in managing jointly owned property.

Texas is a community property state. This means that all property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property, regardless of who earned the money or which spouse purchased the asset. In a divorce, the community property must be divided in a “just and right” manner, which provides fairness to both spouses based on facts of each case.

When you hire a divorce lawyer, one of her primary tasks will be to ascertain which assets you own and how much those assets are worth. Only then can your divorce lawyer give you advice about what may be a “just and right” way to divide the property between you and your spouse. Through the divorce process, there are many tools your lawyer can use. These include:

  • Agreed exchange of property information. A first step in many divorces is to informally exchange financial information. This is often a more cost-effective method and can be done in a way ensuring full disclosure of community assets and liabilities.
  • Formal discovery. “Discovery” is the process by which your lawyer will formally send requests for information to your spouse. This can include information about a business, bank account statements, tax returns, credit card statements, and documents pertaining to any other asset. The court can also order both spouses to provide a sworn property inventory, which requires each party to disclose all assets under oath. If a spouse is uncooperative in the discovery process, there are also methods to get information directly from financial institutions and other third parties.
  • Expert Assistance. In some instances, it may be necessary to hire a financial expert to analyze the community assets or financial transactions occurring during the marriage.

It is possible that one spouse will hide (or attempt to hide) assets. In our experience, most financial transactions will leave a paper trail. Sometimes spouses will make excessive gifts to family members or will open a new bank account without telling the other spouse. Obtaining bank statements will often show where the money went. In more sophisticated schemes, it may be necessary to hire a financial expert to follow the monetary transactions to ascertain whether a spouse is hiding assets.

The good news is that Texas law can provide a remedy against a spouse who unfairly transfers assets. Called “fraud on the community,” it allows a judge to take unfair transfers into consideration when making the just-and-right property division. And, in rare circumstances, the court can also divide undivided property in a new lawsuit filed after the divorce is finished.

If you have concerns about your spouse hiding assets, this is something you should discuss with your lawyer. Here at Thompson Salinas Londergan, we have experience with complicated financial issues. We are prepared to assist with these and other questions you have about your divorce.

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