When Would You Need to Freeze Assets in a Divorce?
Divorce is structured to mandate the division of marital assets so that each spouse receives some compensation for the contributions he/she made to the marriage, as well as providing a level of financial security to move forward. Specifically, Florida law requires that all marital property be divided between the parties, and further expects that this division will be roughly equal, an allocation that not all spouses are comfortable with accepting. Some spouses may be so against an equal division that they will go to great lengths to deprive the other spouse access to all of their assets. This intent can manifest as a spouse refusing to disclose all available assets or moving assets outside U.S. jurisdiction so getting access to them is practically impossible. If these types of acts are an issue, the innocent spouse needs to take quick action to preserve his/her property rights, which involves asking the court to intervene on his/her behalf. As an example, the former wife of a neurologist from Singapore was able to convince a court that her ex-husband was deliberately hiding assets and taking other actions to dissipate marital property during their divorce and awarded her a greater share of the marital estate as compensation. Freezing assets is a typical mechanism used to stem the flow of assets out of the marital estate. In St. Lucie County, the Court will Order a temporary freeze of assets that prevents the depletion of the marital property.
When Is an Asset Freeze Necessary?
As part of the divorce process, each spouse is required to file a financial affidavit outlining all the property he/she owns, both marital and separate. In addition, more information about assets may be gathered during the discovery phase of the divorce case, which is the period during which each side can ask for more feedback. It may be at this point, or earlier, that one spouse realizes that the assets disclosed do not match what the other spouse owns. Preserving the marital estate becomes a priority once this discovery is made, and the most common response is to ask the court for an order to freeze some or all marital assets until the divorce is finalized and division takes place. By issuing an order to freeze assets, the other spouse is barred from spending, transferring, selling, or otherwise disposing of the assets without court approval.
What Types of Assets Are Normally Included?
Realistically, only those assets of notable value will be important enough to spend so much time and effort to conceal or usurp. Assets that are most frequently subject to freeze asset orders include:
- Bank accounts;
- Life insurance policies;
- Business assets;
- Pension accounts; and
- Other financial accounts or securities.
How to Ask for an Asset Freeze
Asking for an asset freeze beyond the temporary order preventing the depletion of assets, is not a routine part of a divorce case, nor is it something that can wait to be scheduled on the court’s normal calendar. Instead, an emergency motion must be filed that asks for a temporary restraining order to prevent the loss of assets. Specifically, the injunction can block both spouses from selling, transferring, or taking a line of credit against marital assets. It can also prevent the selling or cashing out of life insurance policies, as well as changing beneficiaries. Additionally, the order can stop a spouse from making changes to bank accounts or taking all the funds. These are just a few examples among the many other remedies that can be imposed to protect the marital property from the wrongful intent of a spouse to withhold marital assets.
Speak to a Florida Divorce Attorney Today
Knowing or suspecting your spouse is trying to hide assets from you is a complicated situation. Your financial stability depends upon all assets being available for division in divorce, so if this wrongful behavior is an issue, talk to a Port St. Lucie division of assets attorney about your options. Sound legal advice and action are the most effective ways to address this problem, and the attorneys at Baginski Brandt & Brandt are here to help you with all your divorce needs. Contact the Port St. Lucie divorce firm for a consultation.