How to Divide Property in Arizona When a Spouse is Hiding Assets
Sometimes in a dissolution proceeding, one party may attempt to hide his or her assets to prevent an accurate determination of the other party’s interest in the property. This is what the Court of Appeals had to consider in its published decision in Lehn v. Al-Thanayyan.
The husband was a citizen of Kuwait and Wife a citizen of the United States. They married in Arizona in 2006 and shortly after, moved to Kuwait, where they lived for five years. In 2011, Wife and the children moved to Arizona. Husband traveled to Arizona several times a year and Wife and the children spent one month in Kuwait each summer.
During their marriage, Husband worked for the Kuwait Municipal Ministry and another Kuwaiti business called Uptown Trading Company. In the dissolution, Wife alleged that Husband owned several other Kuwaiti businesses and sought disclosure of financial documents related to these businesses from Husband.
Failing to Disclose Information About Property
Husband failed to disclose the documents, claiming he was unable to obtain the requested documents since the businesses were owned by his family and he had no ownership interest.
The trial court found that Husband likely had an ownership interest in the alleged Kuwaiti businesses and that he had sought to hide his assets.
Since the trial court was unable to determine the assets’ value, it compensated Wife for her share of the community interest by making Husband responsible for $241,000, the entire balance of the community debt. The trial court also awarded Wife 85% of the couples’ bank account containing $21,132.
Unequal Division of Assets When Property is Concealed
Husband appealed, citing that the trial court abused its discretion in allocating the community property. In its analysis, the Court of Appeals first looked to Arizona law, which requires community property to be divided equitably absent a sound reason otherwise.
The Court of Appeals ruled that in this case, it was appropriate to unequally divide the community debt and bank account since Husband had sought to hide his interest in the Kuwaiti businesses. Specifically, Husband’s obstructionist behavior prevented an accurate determination of his assets.
Considering that Wife presented evidence that Husband had business interests with $3.8 million in capital, the trial court was within its discretion in ordering the unequal allocation of the community debts and property.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about how to divide property when a spouse is hiding assets in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about spousal maintenance laws in Arizona. Chris is a divorce attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be based upon principles of honesty and integrity. Chris and his staff care about what their clients are going through in a divorce.