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YOU HAVE RIGHTS IF YOUR SPOUSE LIED IN THE DIVORCE ABOUT PROPERTY, BUT DON’T DELAY IN EXERCISING THEM

There are surely many occasions where a party lies in a divorce proceeding about assets, and that lie is never uncovered. But sometimes a lie is discovered. For example, there are more than a few cases where a party has won the lottery and not disclosed that winning in the divorce proceeding, but caught later. Rules of procedure in most states allow a party to challenge a ruling for lack of disclosure of assets or other evidence. These rules typically allow this challenge to take place for up to 6 months after the entry of the order of divorce.

Our firm has a case management system which allows us to program important dates and deadlines into our calendar and reminder system. We have programmed this system to send a letter to clients five months after their divorce advising them that they may be able to challenge any order or agreement of divorce if they have discovered evidence that was not properly brought to light during the proceedings. Parties should be very careful to make sure they bring these challenges within the normal 6 month time frame after divorce. However, this time frame might be substantially extended in certain situations.

The recent case of Trim v. Trim, No. 2007-CT-01648–SCT (Decided April 29, 2010) contains such a situation. In that case, the man filed a financial statement during the divorce stating his business stock was worth $100,000. More than a year after the divorce, the man became embroiled in litigation with his fellow stockholders and his stock was valued at over a million dollars. Upon learning of this, the former Mrs. Trim filed a Motion to set aside her divorce decree based upon fraud in stating the value of the stock. The Chancellor agreed and awarded Ms. Trim additional money. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Ms. Trim should have brought the fraud to the attention of the Court within the traditional 6 month time period. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the fraud was a “fraud upon the Court” and the 6 month time frame did not apply.

The lessons in this are as follows:
  1. Remain vigilant after your divorce for any possible fraud that may have been perpetrated upon you. You may be able to something about it.
  2. Take the 6 month deadline seriously and make sure you examine the situation within that time.
  3. Fraud upon the Court may be uncovered long after the divorce and dealt with.