Locating hidden assets in an Arizona divorce can be challenging, even for the most experienced Arizona divorce attorney. A spouse’s attempts to secrete community assets can occur in any Arizona divorce, regardless of the couple’s relative wealth. Whether the couple’s accumulation of marital property is relatively modest or whether they are wealthy with complex assets, some spouses are simply determined to conceal assets in an attempt to get more than their legal share, no matter what.
Because any Arizona divorce can involve one or both spouse’s attempts to conceal community property, seasoned Arizona divorce attorneys are always on the lookout for any possible indicators of hidden assets. We look for financial clues and discrepancies that necessarily trigger the need for heightened scrutiny before the final decree is rendered.
But what happens when the concealed asset isn’t discovered until after the Court has issued the final divorce decree? The dogged pursuit of assets deliberately concealed is exemplified by the 2006 case decided by the Supreme Court of Arizona. The case we’re talking about is Dressler v. Morrison, 212 Ariz. 279, 130 P3d 978 (Ariz. 2006).
Funding Her Separate Property Trust with His Share of the Community Property.
The problem? Dona Morrison used marital assets to fund her separate trust. In the Arizona divorce, Dona’s trust account was determined to be her separate property and, as a result, was not divided in the divorce. After the final divorce decree was issued, former-husband Walter Dressler sued Dona to recover his half of the community property – his one-half share of the marital asset that she used to fund her separate property trust.
On appeal, Dona argued the doctrine of claim preclusion against Walter’s getting anything from her separate trust. Dona’s position was that, because the divorce was already final, Walter could not now seek to go back in time and get the decree changed. Even if Dona was correct, the result would have been untenable. Under her analysis, concealing property would be much easier to accomplish – hide the asset, get the final decree, and the property is yours forever. But Dona was not correct.
In an Arizona divorce, any community property, joint tenancy property, or property held in common between the married couple, which was not explicitly divided in the divorce decree, is held by both as tenants in common (A.R.S. § 25-318). As a tenant in common, Walter held an undivided one-half interest in his share of any community property funds that were placed in Dona’s separate trust.
Sometimes clients will convey to us their suspicions that the other spouse is concealing assets. At other times, the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart will uncover important clues in the mandatory financial disclosures that such activities may be ongoing. Whenever hidden assets are suspected, our Arizona divorce attorneys take immediate and aggressive action to bring those assets before the Court for a proper division in the divorce.