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During a divorce, there's no time for secrets about money and resources. All of those things need to be sorted by owner, and joint assets must be divided. You know the rules. Your spouse knows the rules.

But what if someone decides to cheat a little -- or a lot? What happens if you hide a secret savings account from your spouse, but your spouse tracks it down? What happens if your spouse tries to keep money from the family business out of the marital split and gets caught?

Any type of deception under oath is illegal, so there's always the possibility that the spouse caught playing financial games could be charged with perjury. Even if that doesn't happen, however, the other repercussions could be significant. The judge's reaction likely depends on exactly what was hidden and what kind of damage it did. Here are some of the potential penalties the guilty party could face:

  • The court could penalize the offending spouse by making him or her pay the other spouse's attorney fees and any court costs related to the discovery of the hidden assets.
  • The court could revise a previously settled spousal or child support agreement based on the offending spouse's newly discovered income or assets. That could mean paying more or getting less, depending on which spouse hid the goods.
  • The court could decide to award all of the hidden money or assets to the aggrieved spouse.

For example, one California woman just kept quiet about the fact that she'd won $1.3 million in the lottery just 11 days before she asked her husband for a divorce. Eventually, the deception was uncovered and the judge -- who believed the woman had acted purposefully -- gave the entire $1.3 million to the woman's husband in their divorce. Had the woman owned up to the win from the start, she would have only lost half of the money, at most.

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