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Hiding assets during divorce can have serious consequences

When couples get divorced in Rhode Island they will generally try to agree on issues of child support, spousal support and the division of marital property. In preparation for these negotiations each side will typically seek information through the discovery process about the couple's income, assets and debts. If they are unable to agree, the court will issue the necessary orders after hearing evidence about the family's finances.

Sometimes during divorce proceedings one spouse will try to hide or dissipate assets in an attempt to avoid paying spousal support or child support, or to prevent the other party from getting their fair share in the property division. If the court finds out about it, the spouse engaging in this conduct can face severe consequences.

In Rhode Island, automatic orders apply to each party as soon as they file the divorce complaint or are served with the complaint by the other party. Among other things, these orders prohibit either party from transferring, hiding or disposing of any assets owned by either or both spouses, or from incurring any unreasonable debts.

If one party violates these orders they can be found in contempt of court. In addition, the court can require the spouse who violated the order to repay the amounts in question to the other spouse. The court can also award the defrauded spouse additional spousal support or additional assets in the property division to make up for those that were concealed or dissipated.

Before these penalties can be imposed, of course, the other spouse must discover the problem. For this reason it is important to work with a family law attorney who knows how to recognize and uncover asset dissipation and concealment.

Source: R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-5-14.1, "Divorce and Separation," accessed Feb. 15, 2015

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