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Pennsylvania divorce: What happens if your spouse lies in court?

According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, nearly one third of all adults in the United States admit to being deceptive with their spouse or partner about their shared finances. Almost 60 percent acknowledge they have hid cash or assets, while others admit keeping quiet about a small purchase (54 percent) and still others have stowed away a bill from their partner (30 percent). More than one third freely admit they have lied about how much money they make, how much money they have and/or how much money they owe. It is perhaps no wonder, then, that couples might think of lying when it comes to divorce proceedings.

There is one major distinction between lying privately to a spouse or partner and doing it in the context of a Pennsylvania divorce proceeding. When a divorce is commenced, parties are typically required to complete and sign a financial affidavit, and the maker is required to swear to the truth of the statements contained in the document under penalty of perjury. The document is a formal representation of income and assets as well as liabilities. Whatever inclination an individual might have to lie to their spouse privately, doing it in a divorce proceeding can lead to substantial problems. It is illegal, and there are cases that underscore the potential consequences that lying could provoke.

One California woman reportedly won the lottery less than two weeks before she filed for divorce. When she did file, she neglected to disclose the $1.3 million in lottery winnings. When the lie was discovered, the court acted decisively. If the wife had disclosed the winnings properly, each spouse would have received half of the winnings in California. Because she lied, the husband was awarded the entire amount.

No matter one's gender, lying in divorce proceedings can result in severe consequences. In Pennsylvania, a party who lies could face criminal charges in addition to financial penalties in the divorce litigation itself. Those encountering these issues are likely best served by securing professional assistance to ensure they and their spouse play by the rules. In doing so, the parties can work to achieve a settlement that is both fair and comprehensive without risk of court sanctions for illegal representations.

Source: Forbes, "What Are the Consequences Of Hiding Assets During Divorce?" Jeff Landers, Nov. 14, 2012

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