Uncovering Hidden Assets in Divorce

While no one likes to think they could be defrauded by their spouse, even under the worst circumstances, asset concealment during divorce is relatively common. Some spouses hide assets for purely financial reasons, perhaps fearing that they will not have enough to get by on after the divorce; others engage in asset concealment for other reasons, such as feelings of entitlement or a desire to seek revenge.

Divorcing spouses hide assets from one another in a wide variety of ways, ranging from highly sophisticated to deceptively simple. The following examples are just a few of the methods that a spouse may use to cheat a soon-to-be-ex out of a fair property settlement:

  • Temporarily transferring stock or other investment accounts into someone else’s name with the understanding that they will be transferred back after the divorce
  • Purchasing high-value items that are likely to be overlooked or undervalued, such as antiques or art
  • Deferring salary, commission, bonuses or other income to keep it off the books until after the divorce has concluded
  • Stowing cash or other assets in a safe deposit box, either in the home or elsewhere
  • Setting up a custodial account in the name of a child or other third party
  • Overpaying on taxes or other debts with the intent of receiving a refund after the divorce

To avoid losing out to a spouse’s asset-hiding scheme, it is important to stay involved in your finances at all stages of both marriage and divorce. Also watch for common warning signs that your spouse may be hiding assets, for instance if he or she:

  • Is secretive about financial affairs and does not share passwords and bank account information with you
  • Begins taking out unusual amounts of debt
  • Has financial statements and bills sent to a work address or private P.O. box
  • Opens multiple bank accounts for reasons that seem flimsy
  • Complains of sudden financial hardship, such as business failure, particularly if this occurs without a corresponding decrease in spending

Hiding assets during a divorce to affect the outcome of the property division process is unethical and illegal. If you are going through a divorce and suspect that your spouse may be hiding money or other assets from you, seek advice from an experienced family law attorney in your area.

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