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Financial Misconduct in an Ohio Marital Dissolution

Financial Misconduct in an Ohio Marital Dissolution
June 10, 2016 Shannon Dawes
How to prepare for a divorce in Ohio

The divorce process requires both spouses to provide extensive disclosure and candor regarding assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. Marital dissolutions can get complicated when your spouse decides to utilize tactics designed to interfere with an equitable division of marital property. Spouses seeking to disrupt this process often engage in a range of acts of financial misconduct. This inappropriate conduct can include non-disclosure, concealment, destruction, dissipation, and fraudulent disposition of assets.

When your spouse engages in this type of financial misconduct in a divorce, Ohio law authorizes a judge to punish these attempts to frustrate the court’s task of reaching an equitable distribution of property.

To understand the court’s power to penalize your spouse for trying to manipulate the distribution of property in your divorce, you must understand a few basic concepts about property division in a marital dissolution. Marital property includes the following:

  • All property of either spouse acquired during the marriage, including both real property (real estate) and personal property (all other types of property)
  • Any interest of either spouse in real or personal property acquired during the marriage (.e.g. contributions to retirement accounts made during marriage)
  • Increases in value and income from separate property that results from contributions or labor during the marriage

Separate property includes the following categories of property:

  • Property acquired by either spouse before marriage
  • Inheritance of one spouse
  • Property designated as separate in a prenuptial agreement or anti-nuptial agreement
  • Appreciation and passive income from separate property (Passive income refers to income that does not result from marital labor or contributions.)
  • Property acquired after a legal separation under Section 2105.17
  • Gifts to only one spouse after marriage
  • Proceeds from personal injury recovery (except lost earning during the marriage)

Ohio Revised Code 3105.171(E)(4) empowers a court to compensate an aggrieved spouse when the other party to a divorce engages in acts of financial misconduct. The judge might attempt to punish attempts to hide, dissipate, or misrepresent property in a divorce by granting a greater share of the marital property to the wronged spouse or through a “distributive award”. A “distributive award” under Section 3105.171 involves an award from the separate property of the spouse found to have engaged in inappropriate financial wrongdoing.

The ability of a judge to punish a spouse for attempting to “game the system” means that you should take your duty of disclosure seriously and avoid attempting to waste, fraudulently convey, or give assets away to friends, family, or associates for less than fair market value. There are cases of parties suffering severe consequences for not disclosing assets, such as lottery winnings, acquired before or even during the divorce process. In some cases, the court punished the party who failed to disclose the marital asset by awarding the entire lottery award to the innocent spouse.

While the court can impose consequences for financial misconduct and wasting assets, you might need a Columbus divorce lawyer to help you expose conduct that includes:

  • Hiding cash that comes into a business
  • Disposing of assets for less than market value
  • Creating hidden bank accounts and investments
  • Titling property in the name of a third-party
  • Giving money and gifts to an illicit lover
  • Understating the worth of assets with values that are hard to quantify

If you believe your spouse plans to hide or waste assets to prevent you from receiving an equitable distribution of marital property, experienced Columbus divorce lawyer Shannon Dawes conducts appropriate discovery, carefully analyzes financial documents, and works closely with financial experts. At Dawes Legal, LLC, we recognize the financial foundation upon which you will rebuild your life after divorce depends on the share of property you receive in your marital dissolution. We invite you to call us today at 614-733-9999.