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Honesty: the key to gaining equitable division of property

The increase in divorce rates has affected many families in Phoenix, Arizona. Couples and their children already suffer emotional trauma and financial hardships-common outcomes of divorce. In property division, both parties' goal is to gain equitable division of properties. Arizona is a community property state which means that most property acquired during marriage is split evenly among the divorcing couple. Business assets and artwork may be classified as either community property or separate property depending on when acquired.

Although this process of property division for the most part seems fair and just for both parties, there can be a problem when spouses are dishonest about their assets. Some divorce cases turns ugly when one spouse feels that not all properties were disclosed, and hidden debts and sudden change of income were not revealed. Some spouses may be dishonest and attempt to take advantage of the other person. Some examples of dishonesty during property division are declaring higher expenses than what is true, reporting lower annual income, hiding assets and lowering property values.

Sometimes, a person will do something illegal in order to obtain a larger share of property than the other spouse. It is clear that equitable division cannot be achieved when one party doesn't disclose his or her properties and assets honestly. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 31 percent of adults who shared their assets with their spouses admitted that they were not honest in disclosing their true income and debts.

Some spouses hide cash from their partners from the beginning. Others tend to buy little things without the consent of their spouses. These acts are not illegal but it could cause disagreements once the other spouse becomes aware of it.

Dishonesty during the process of property division may cause serious consequences such as prison time, dismissal of claims or the dishonest spouse being ordered to pay the other spouse's attorney fees.

In order to gain fair and equal division, both parties must be honest about all debts, bank accounts, retirement accounts and investments. With the help of a legal professional, all of the couple's assets and property will be disclosed, making it easier for the court to decide on how it's going to be divided fairly.

Source: Forbes.com, "What are the consequences of hiding assets during divorce?" Jeff Landers, Nov. 14, 2012

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