All divorce proceedings require both parties to make a full financial disclosure of the assets of the marriage and each person’s personal financial holdings. This includes cryptocurrencies. The obstacle with cryptocurrencies is that assets in this form are easier to hide and often cannot be confirmed sans the admission of the person holding the monies. So, what do you do if you know or suspect that your spouse is not disclosing assets in the form of cryptocurrencies?
What Is Cryptocurrency?
First, it is important to understand what constitutes cryptocurrency. There are two unique characteristics of cryptocurrency:
- It is a digital or virtual form of money. This means that it exists only in the virtual world and not in paper form. While a person might be able to buy items and/or trade cryptocurrency, for it to be used in a way that most of us are accustomed to, it must be transferred from its virtual form to paper form.
- Cryptocurrency is not a government issued or regulated form of currency. Therefore, governments do not insure or protect the manner in which cryptocurrency is used, bought or traded.
Disclosure Requirements During Divorce
In Australia the law requires that all assets that belong to the marriage and to each party of the marriage, be disclosed during divorce proceedings. This is called taking an inventory of the assets. Under all circumstances if a party to a divorce proceeding does not disclose a held asset, they can be sanctioned or penalized by the Court. But, unlike other assets, cryptocurrency is hard to track and value. The value of cryptocurrency is extremely unstable making it hard for the Court to pinpoint its actual worth. In addition, there is no particular manner in which the government can track or document ownership of cryptocurrency. Therefore, if it is not disclosed by its owner, it is more difficult to confirm its existence.
Knowledge or Suspicion of Cryptocurrency
If you have knowledge that your spouse or partner is holding cryptocurrency assets, it is important that you inform your solicitor of what you know. If you are in possession of bank statements or transfers of cryptocurrency that, prove that your spouse or the marriage is holding digital currency, it is imperative that you provide this documentation to your solicitor.
The issue can be more complicated if you are only suspicious of cryptocurrency accounts. But, nonetheless, you should inform your solicitor of your suspicions. Once you do, your solicitor can make inquiries to your spouse’s solicitor or your spouse directly, if they are not represented. In addition, your solicitor can bring your concerns to the attention of the Court. The Court can then decide as to how to proceed with regard to your suspicions.
Court Proceedings/Cryptocurrency Investigations
The Courts have not yet settled on how to handle suspected cryptocurrency holdings that are not being disclosed by a party to a divorce. If there is some credible evidence to support that one partner or the other is holding digital currency, but not disclosing the holding, the Court can determine that the asset exists, assign it a value, and add it to the marital assets total for distribution. The Court also has discretion as to any penalty or punishment that the withholding spouse may be subject to for non-disclosure of a marital asset. However, one of the greatest challenges this presents to the Court is that the value of digital currency is ever fluctuating and oftentimes unstable. Therefore, it is possible that the currency might be worth very little at the time of the finalization of a divorce proceeding, but gain in value as soon as the very next day.
Tips for Proceeding
The most important steps you can take when you suspect that your spouse is investing in cryptocurrency include:
- Keep records of any investments being made.
- Know the current value of the digital currency your spouse or the marriage owns.
- Provide any documentation you have regarding the ownership and value of the cryptocurrency to your solicitor.
- Ask the Court for assistance in discovering the true nature and extent of the holdings by requiring full disclosure from both parties for which penalties will be levied against a party shown to be in non-compliance.
While divorce proceedings are never pleasant and financial disclosures are always ripe for a lack of transparency, cryptocurrency holdings can make these uncertainties even more complicated. Therefore, we strongly encourage those in a situation such as this, to seek legal counsel immediately.
In the event that you find yourself in need of assistance, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.