Hiding Marital Assets Can Have Disastrous Effects


First of all, the best way to explain how hiding marital assets can affect you is by using a real California family law case. So, a brief summary of an actual case follows.

Please take note that if you hide marital assets or try and cheat your spouse in any way, this really could happen to you!

From the family law book, the example case is In re Marriage of ROSSI (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 34. The spouses were Denise and Thomas Rossi. They married in 1971. Piece of a California lottery ticketIn early November 1996, Denise and her co-workers formed a lottery pool. Each member of the pool contributed $5 per week.

Surprisingly, the group won the lottery jackpot in late December. They won $6,680,000, paid in 20 equal payments of $66,800 annually to each worker/contributor from 1996 to 2015. 

Money being thrown in the air by a womanBefore receiving her first lottery check, Denise filed a petition for divorce wanting to keep all of the money for herself. She never told Thomas about the lottery jackpot. Further, Denise did not reveal the lottery winnings in any of her divorce documents. And to make sure Thomas did not find out, she used her mother’s address to receive her lottery checks.

Judgment of dissolution was entered April 7, 1997. Thomas filed for bankruptcy the following year. In May of 1999, a letter arrived at Thomas’s home address regarding Denise’s lottery winnings.

In July 1999, Thomas filed a motion to set aside the dissolution of marriage based on fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and failure to disclose. Thomas was asking the court to give him 100 percent of the lottery winnings.

Amazingly, the trial court agreed with Thomas and awarded him 100 percent of the lottery winnings. Specifically, the court expressly found that Denise intentionally failed to disclose her lottery winnings in the marital settlement agreement, the judgment and her declaration of disclosure.

Bag of money "all for Thomas"
Surprisingly, the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision stating that the Trial Court’s decision was correct. And it ordered that Thomas get 100 percent of the lottery winnings.

Spouses are Fiduciaries

First of all, a fiduciary is a person who holds a place of great trust. Unsurprisingly, in a marital situation, spouses are held to the highest ethical standards in financial dealings that affect the other spouse.

As the real case above explains, California is very serious about being honest with your spouse. And you should note that there are many laws that protect a spouse from financially abusing the other spouse.