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June 30, 2012

Navigating Divorce: Is Your Spouse Hiding Assets?

Hiding and attempting to hide assets from a spouse is more common than most people think. While most people have a tendency to think that the husband is the one that may attempt to hide marital assets, women also attempt to hide assets, and both parties arrive at divorce court thinking that they should have more of the marital assets than they are entitled. In actuality, in divorce situations where one spouse is attempting to hide marital assets, it is usually the husband who is trying to commit this sneaky, unethical and illegal behavior.

The spouse who may suspect that the other partner is attempting to hide assets can take some precautions to expose the guilty party of any wrongful deceit. It begins with hiring a competent professional divorce team. One of the tools at the disposal of such professional team is a lifestyle analysis. The analysis process takes the married couple through a process where total living expenses are calculated and compared with stated and/or reported income. If there is a deficit between outgoing cash and income, it is usually an indication that one of the parties is attempting to hide income.

Other attempts to conceal assets include the following:

  • Stashing money in a safety deposit box or some secret hiding place
  • Purchasing items that are easy to conceal or overlook the value
  • Deferment of salary, bonuses and commissions
  •  Stock transfer
  • Overpayment to creditors

These are just a few tricks that one party may try in order to conceal assets or hide income. Any time a spouse starts changing behavior patterns; this should trigger a red flag. Such changes may include additional and sudden “business trips”, opening additional bank accounts and being secretive about income and expenses, especially when it appears that exaggerations of expenses and significant decreases in revenue for the business owner. The spouse who is attempting to hide assets may have safeguards on his or her computer and is secretive concerning passwords to various online accounts.

The key to ensuring that one spouse is not attempting to hide assets is by being involved in all financial aspects within the household and any business, if applicable. Attempting to expose a spouse who has systematically been hiding assets over a lengthy period may be a difficult task, if not impossible. Failure to share in all financial matters should alert one to the fact that his or her spouse may not be honest.

It is also important to not only show interest but become involve with any interests or hobbies your spouse may have, especially at the beginning of the relationship. One of the parties may have an interest in collecting things of significant value that most people are not aware of, such as art, antiques, coins, stamps and other collectibles. Some of these assets, such as coins, are readily transported away from the marital residence and easily sold for cash, without leaving any type of paper trail.

Both parties need to have at least some idea of what types and amounts of assets that either or both of the individuals have purchased. In situations where a collection may have significant value, each party should have some type of documentation to support any claim they may have concerning such assets within the marriage.

The best stance that either spouse should take is that they do not deserve to be treated unfairly and that neither has to become a victim in a divorce situation. If one suspects the other of attempting to conceal marital assets, he or she should seek the advice of his or her forensic accountant so that proper actions may be taken.

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