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Uncovering hidden assets in a divorce

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2022 | Divorce

During your marriage, you and your spouse may have handled finances like many married couples in California and throughout the country, meaning you both shared equal responsibility in all things financial. On the other hand, your relationship might have mirrored those where only one spouse handles the finances, with the other implicitly trusting his or her management skills. Either way, once you filed for a divorce, full disclosure is necessary for a fair settlement.

You can reasonably expect that your spouse will adhere to state laws governing property division proceedings. If, for some reason, you don’t think this is the case, it can make for a stressful litigation experience. What’s most important is that you clearly understand what you’re entitled to receive when assets are divided and, also, that you know where to seek support if you believe your ex is hiding assets to keep them away from you.

Ask about missing money and watch your spouse’s reaction

If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets as you prepare to settle a divorce, you have a right to inquire about it. For instance, you might have a jointly owned bank account and notice that withdrawals have recently been made without your awareness beforehand. You can ask your spouse about the missing money.

If he or she flies off the handle and becomes confrontational or defensive, consider it a red flag. A situation like this is worth further investigation. Perhaps you have children, and your spouse recently became adamant about opening minor bank accounts for them with his or her name as the parent-owner of the account.

This is also a common way for spouses to hide money in a divorce because the parent whose name is on a minor account has full access to make deposits or withdrawals.

Has your spouse supposedly hired new employees that you haven’t met?

Hiring ghost employees is another asset-hiding trick that small business owners often use in divorce. If your spouse has added names to the payroll but is not actually paying a real person an income, that money can easily be hidden elsewhere.

It pays to conduct a thorough review of credit card statements and tax returns

If your spouse has overpaid on a recent tax return or credit card bill, you might think it’s nothing more than an oversight, at first. However, if your suspicions have already been raised due to other issues that he or she might be hiding assets, an overpayment might not be as innocent as you think.

Many spouses who want to “stash cash” to keep it from being subject to property division proceedings will intentionally overpay on a credit card balance or tax return. After finalizing a divorce, this money will come back to them as a hefty refund at some point.

Has your spouse’s income taken a nosedive or has a bonus not arrived?

Perhaps you expected your spouse to receive bonus pay at work by a certain date, but it never arrived. Maybe you were surprised when you spouse came home from work to inform you that his or her income was unexpectedly reduced by a substantial amount.

If you suspect a hidden asset scheme, these issues should definitely concern you. A spouse can hide assets by asking an employer to defer payment of a bonus or to hold back income until a final divorce decree is issued.

The court does not look favorably on those who try to beat the system

Hiding assets in a divorce causes the spouse in question to perjure himself or herself before the court. A family court judge can hold a spouse in contempt for trying to execute this type of scheme.

If you think your ex is trying to give you the short end of the stick during property division proceedings by hiding assets, you may seek the court’s intervention to help resolve the issue.