Man completes “secret” divorce to shield assets

Couples in Pennsylvania who enjoy significant measures of wealth often give great deals of thought to how that wealth will be divided in the event of divorce. Property division is never an easy process, but couples who are facing high-asset divorce proceedings usually have more complex blends of assets, which can make dividing their wealth a challenge. In some cases, spouses will go to great lengths to attempt to shield those assets from loss during divorce.

An example is found in a marriage of 20 years in which the wife was unaware that her husband had divorced her almost immediately after taking his vows. The husband had a significant volume of inherited wealth at the time of the marriage and had also built a successful business. The two married without a prenuptial agreement in place. In an apparent attempt to prevent his wife from receiving any property in the event of a divorce, the husband filed for divorce in a foreign country just four months after his wedding.

He hired attorneys to represent both sides in the matter, and the divorce went through without either party appearing in front of the court. From that point forward, the couple has functioned as any other married unit, having and raising a child, purchasing property, and handling challenges as they arise, including the husband’s hospitalization from health problems. That changed when the wife recently received a tax bill for the couple’s home that did not have her name on it. She hired an attorney to look into the matter, which is how she discovered that her husband had filed for and obtained a divorce nearly two decades earlier.

She sued her husband to have the divorce nullified and to prevent him from selling their home to his adult daughter. It is unclear whether the couple is heading for an actual divorce, but, if that is the case, the court will have to first address the validity of the foreign divorce. If the man is unable to prove that his wife was informed of the divorce at the time it was taking place, he could face an uphill battle asking the court to consider him to be an unmarried man. For Pennsylvania spouses, the case likely has no bearing on their own marital situations, but it certainly serves as a reminder of how greed can influence an individual’s decisions.

Source: New York Post, “Husband secretly divorced wife after wedding ‘to protect assets’“, Kathianne Boniello, Jan. 24, 2016