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What to do if Your Spouse is Hiding Assets

Posted By Attorney Jim Cairns || 4-Mar-2013

What to do if Your Spouse is Hiding Assets

An uncontested divorce can bring out the dark side in a spouse. This is especially true when it comes to the marital assets. I have some red flags which may indicate your spouse may be hiding marital assets and how you can tackle the situation.

Jeff Landers, a contributor to Forbes and founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors has shared several ways in which a spouse may try to hide marital assets:

  1. Spouse has control over bank accounts and online passwords;
  2. Spouse is secretive about marital finances, for example a personal post office box where financial documents (bank statements and bills) are sent;
  3. Spouse has significant unreimbursed business expenses;
  4. Spouse deletes a financial program on a computer;
  5. Spouse states the computer with financial records crashes and information is never seen again;
  6. Spouse gives a sense of urgency for you to sign financial documents, for example the deadline is today;
  7. Spouse states that there are sudden financial crises;
  8. Spouse claims a dramatic income drop, yet there is no reduction in outgoing money;
  9. Spouse suddenly buys luxury items, for example a car or jewelry;
  10. Spouse states there is a depreciation in investments;
  11. Spouse makes trips to countries with favorable banking laws;
  12. In a short period of time, spouse has multiple cell phones or phone numbers;
  13. Spouse purchases items which could be easily overlooked and sold later, for example, electronics;
  14. Spouse has a substance abuse problem;
  15. Spouse is gambling and puts money into casino accounts; and
  16. Spouse suddenly opens several bank accounts with no apparent reason.

Here are some additional areas to gather marital financial information:

  • Think about when the relationship started getting rocky. This is a good place to start closely scrutinizing records;
  • Start gathering all the financial documents you can now. The longer you wait the more challenging this can be;
  • Find gaps of where there are missing financial records, this can be a tip off of assets being hidden;
  • Examine records to see when your finances started to decline for no apparent reason as to the reason why; and
  • Look for transactions that appear to be obscure or confusing; this is sometimes used as a tactic to hide where the money really went.

Make sure you get all financial records from the original source. For example, get copies of tax documents from the I.R.S. and not your spouse. Some spouses have been known to give their husband or wife falsified records.

An unwillingness to share in all the financial aspects of the marriage is a clear red flag that something is being hidden. In addition, if you notice a change in behavior when it comes to your marital finances, find out why. If your gut instinct is telling you something isn't right, then it's time to investigate.

If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, there are some options available to discover your marital assets. Professionals can be a valuable part of your uncontested divorce team. A lifestyle analysis can give you a portrait of your standard of living during your marriage.

A lifestyle analysis can reconstruct your daily living including what came in and what was spent. The last three to five years are normally a strong part of the portrait. Included in the analysis are day to day expenses and unusual expenses, which helps verify net worth and income.

If you don't have the budget to hire a qualified person who can perform a lifestyle analysis, there is software available. Don't forget to inquire about a free trial period to help you save money. Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to create your financial portrait. Your uncontested divorce lawyer will not be digging down into the details of your finances and lifestyle.

A qualified forensic accountant can offer invaluable expertise when headed for an no-fault divorce. Forensic accountants are not only expert in spotting fraudulent activity, but also can find hidden assets and deferred income. Their services have been of invaluable service for spouses who do not manage the household finances.

Judges do not look upon hiding marital assets favorably. In addition, spouses who hide assets can eventually find themselves doing time in jail.