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Marriage fraud: Protect yourself against being used

When you've only been married a short time, you probably feel like you should be in the honeymoon phase. However, some people quickly find that their lives aren't what they expected, even just a few short months after their marriage.

If you've been in a short-term marriage and have a spouse who decided it was a mistake, a divorce can still be a good option. However, the property division situation might be a little complex, depending on how much you've commingled your property.

Here's an example. If you share bank accounts, bought a house or bought property after your marriage, then you may be entitled to half, just as your spouse would be, thanks to California's laws. That's the case even if you're the one who made the purchases or who funds the accounts most.

What should you do if you believe your spouse married you only to divorce you a short time later to obtain your property?

It's a smart choice to get your attorney on board right away if you believe that your spouse married you only to gain access to your wealth. For example, if you gave them access to your accounts after you got married, they could now be allowed to take 50% of those assets during a divorce, even though you were married only a short time. Is that fair? Not really, especially if they planned to marry you fraudulently.

Most attorneys would advise prenuptial agreements to prevent marriages from turning into money grabs, since they can restrict new spouses' access to your funds or assets. However, if you don't have one, you can still take steps to protect your assets.

You can attempt to show that your spouse was defrauding you or only after your money, for instance. Keep any paperwork, emails, text messages or other items that show they've been using you or manipulating you to gain access to your wealth.

Even though the California court could technically award them 50% of your shared marital assets, the judge may create a different order if they believe there is a reason to give your spouse less. There is no guarantee that a judge will rule in your favor, so it's best if you and your attorney can negotiate with your spouse to show how much evidence you have of their wrongdoing before taking them to court. They may be willing to negotiate and walk away with much less.

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