Q&A: How Can I Secure My Fair Share of Assets During a Divorce?
by Ike Vanden Eykel
Ike Vanden Eykel offers expert advice on alimony, splitting finances, and more.
My spouse controls all of our finances. I don’t know what our monthly income is or what assets we have. I feel helpless. Do I need to know this information before I file for divorce?
No; however, the more information you can arm yourself with, the better off you and your attorney will be. There are ways this information can be obtained during the divorce process, so don’t be too distraught if you can’t get all of it. Before asking your spouse this information, consult with a divorce attorney and get a plan in place. A lot of spouses get “tipped off” that the other spouse is planning on filing for divorce if they start getting asked common questions about family finances during a period of ongoing marital tension.
Since I don’t know anything about our finances, I’m afraid that once I file for divorce, my spouse will retaliate and liquidate our accounts. Can this happen?
It can happen and it is a good reason why it is so important for you to get a plan in place with your divorce attorney before you file a petition for divorce. Things can be done to prevent, to a certain extent, this type of property division scenario from happening. At a minimum, Dallas County and most surrounding counties have put in place what is referred to as a “standing order” that prohibits a spouse from liquidating accounts when a divorce case is filed. This order still allows for reasonable and necessary living expenditures and attorneys fees to be paid. Your divorce attorney should discuss these legal issues with you, including risks and the likelihood of your spouse’s financial retaliation to your divorce filing.
I’m worried that because I have been in the dark about our finances that my spouse will try to hide assets from me. Can anything be done to find these hidden assets?
Yes. There is a multitude of techniques that can be employed depending on your current budget and what information you do possess. Sometimes it is as simple as getting your spouse’s employment records and tax returns to first determine income, and then correlate those records with the money that has been paid out by examining the checking account statements. Other times, it can get more extensive, including the hiring of a private investigator or forensic accountant to review financial records and trace where funds are coming from and where they are going to, including such exotic outlets as offshore banking accounts. You and your attorney should discuss the costs involved as well as the likelihood, based on the information you do have, as to whether these assets exist.
My spouse told me recently that we don’t have money for things we have easily paid for in the past; therefore, I think he might be hiding funds in case I file for divorce. Then again, what if this money isn’t hidden? What if it’s instead being used for an affair?
If any of these scenarios are proven, you may have what is called a “waste claim.” If a spouse “wastes” community funds by gambling, excessive spending, excessive credit card debt, gifts to a paramour, etc., the Court can consider these in a claim of “waste” by the other spouse. The Texas Family Code provides remedy for these issues and if you are able to prove your spouse has wasted community assets in ways that are not in the best interest of your family, the court can “reconstitute” the estate in an attempt to make up for your spouse’s bad/wasteful behavior by awarding you a larger share of the current marital assets or a judgment against your spouse.
I heard that Texas is not an alimony state. Is this true?
No. The Texas Family Code provides for spousal support to be awarded to a spouse if your facts and circumstances meet the requirements as set forth in the code. Further, you and your spouse may agree to contractual alimony depending on the division of your marital property and assets.
I’ve been the primary caregiver for our children and I’ve heard that my spouse will get every other weekend with them. Is this true? My spouse hasn’t taken care of the children for an overnight period alone since they were born and I’m worried.
Not exactly. Texas law has what is called a “standard possession order” that allows for a parent to have visitation on the first, third, and fifth weekend of every month (as well as additional time throughout the year that I won’t go into here). Although this is considered the standard for Texas Courts, the Court can award a different schedule based on the facts and circumstances of your case. Therefore, it is imperative that you get with an attorney to discuss what sort of child custody schedule or visitation schedule would be workable and appropriate for your family. Also, the Court can order a parent to attend parenting classes or require supervised visitation, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, if it is deemed necessary for the safety of the child.
Do you have more questions regarding property and asset divisions during a divorce? Contact Chief Executive Officer Ike Vanden Eykel at (214) 871-2727.