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Takeaway from divorce tale: Don't shield marital assets

Complex asset division in a marital dissolution can be, well, complex, when a divorcing spouse makes concerted efforts to hide marital wealth from a partner. In such a case, an equitable property division depends on tracing hidden assets, ensuring that they are properly valued and having them included in the marital estate.

In Florida, a court determines what is equitable in a divorce proceeding, and a family law judge will be far from sympathetic to any divorcing spouse who has sought to deprive his or her partner of a fair accounting. Judges have slapped contempt charges on wrongdoers, as well as meted out fines, property forfeiture and other penalties.

A prison term is also not out of the question, as evidenced by a recent case in Alaska that commands relevance for any divorcing person in Florida or elsewhere who contemplates cheating the system and a soon-to-be former partner.

In that case, a wealthy doctor from Anchorage actually drove from that city to Panama in 2007 to surreptitiously deposit checks totaling about $4 million. The purpose: to shield the wealth from his wife in a divorce settlement.

As noted in one media account, the doctor -- a plastic surgeon -- subsequently “sneaked the money back into the United States,” depositing it into a dummy corporation set up for just that purpose.

Unfortunately for him, it was traced through help from a former accomplice, and seized by federal agents.

The future now looks far different for the surgeon than what he contemplated while engaged in his ruse. He could spend the next two decades in prison.

Source: Alaska Dispatch, "Alaska plastic surgeon indicted for smuggling millions to Panama," Casey Grove, Sept. 20, 203

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