Marriages don't usually sour overnight. Instead, they tend to slowly fall apart, with each spouse gradually becoming more independent and thinking of himself or herself as an individual, rather than part of a couple. That's often reflected in their finances as well, because it isn't uncommon for one or both spouses to have hidden a little money away for a rainy day without telling the other person.
California's laws, however, make it very clear: In the event of a divorce, each spouse has a duty to disclose all of their financial information and assets. There's several different reasons for this:
—California is a strict community property state, which means that almost all property acquired after the marriage is to be divided up 50/50.
—The court wants to make sure that one spouse doesn't get a little too liberal with the marital funds and purposefully overspend in order to avoid splitting the assets evenly.
—Full disclosure of all assets helps the court determine what sort of child and spousal support is fair.
If both sides play fairly with each other, it may be possible to achieve an amicable division of the property with a little negotiation. For example, if the parties can work out an uncontested divorce, they don't necessarily have to stick to the 50/50 split. By being up front about your assets, you can set the tone for future negotiations with your spouse and, hopefully, come to an agreement that allows you to keep most or all of what you've tucked away over time by bargaining with something else that your spouse feels is more important.
For example, there may be a particular piece of artwork that your spouse values for its intrinsic beauty but you see as a mere "thing." You may be able to negotiate an agreement that lets your spouse keep the art while you keep the cash you tucked away. The agreement may not end up being a 50/50 split financially, but you may both walk away happier with the results.
Ultimately, you want to work with an attorney who will listen to your goals and help you try to achieve the closest possible outcome to those goals in the end. Our attorneys will use their abilities to try to negotiate your divorce with as little conflict as possible, which may help you keep more of what you've saved. For more information on how we handle divorce issues like asset division, please visit our page.