During our marriage, my wife secretly had a separate checking account that I found out she put at least $74,000 in during our 18-year marriage without my knowledge.
Can I bring those assets back into a divorce settlement proceeding that is currently underway? Is it considered marital property subject to distribution?
First, let me preface my answer by stating that I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Missouri. The information in the article is general in nature. You should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction immediately to discuss your options. Cordell & Cordell does represent clients in Missouri.
Your question is about trying to count money your wife hid from you during your marriage as an asset in your divorce. There are two ways to classify property acquired during a marriage: community property or equitable distribution. In a community property state all property acquired during the marriage is divided equally (50/50). In an equitable distribution state (Missouri falls into this category), all property acquired during the marriage is divided “equitably,” or fairly. Not necessarily equally.
In states that use an equitable division of assets, there are several factors that the court looks at when splitting property. The factors include:
- The economic circumstances of each spouse;
- The contributions of each spouse to the acquisition of marital property, and contributions as a homemaker;
- The value of any non-marital property either spouse has;
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
- Child custody arrangements.
It is likely that you cannot bring those funds back into the divorce settlement. What is gone is gone. But that does not change the fact that she earned that money, or that she hid it from you for such a long period of time. Your wife’s conduct can be taken into consideration when the judge decides what an “equitable” split of your assets will be.
Additionally, the fact that she hid the money from you does not mean that her total income will be affected. She earned a higher income than what you were aware of. This information should assist your attorney in helping you get a larger share of the marital assets, or at least quash her claims that she needs a larger share. Her conduct could also assist you in arguing that she should not be entitled to spousal support or alimony, if she is asking for it.
You should contact an attorney who is licensed in Missouri to further discuss the specifics of your situation. Cordell & Cordell does represent clients in Missouri. Thank you for submitting your question.
Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.