Divorce would be a lot easier if all spouses could cooperate and compromise to achieve swift and fair settlements. In reality, things often do not happen like that. In fact, spouses get pretty nasty sometimes, perhaps trying to hide assets or otherwise give an ex the short end of the settlement stick.
When you're already trying to deal with the emotional upheaval of divorce, the last thing you need to worry about is tracking down assets that you are entitled to receive when the court divides your marital property. Not only is hiding assets a mean-spirited thing to do; it is also illegal. If you suspect your spouse would do something like this, it helps to know where to turn for help if a problem arises.
Keep an eye out for these red flags
While you may not want to be married to your spouse anymore, that doesn't mean you'd expect him or her to be underhanded so that you walk away with less marital property than you should have. The following is a list of signs that you may have a hidden asset problem on your hands:
- A common way to hide assets is simply to stash cash away somewhere. If you suspect a problem, it might be good idea to conduct a search in the closets, drawers, attic space and other areas of your home.
- If your spouse's pay stub shows a higher wage amount than he or she is bringing home, you might want to inquire as to whether your spouse is using a deferred compensation plan you didn't know about. This is a fairly easy way to hide assets.
- Another item of note on a pay stub is the tax withholding section. If your spouse is trying to hide assets, overpaying in taxes is one way to do it.
- Has your spouse suddenly created a bank account for one of your children? This is another means to hide assets by funding an account for a minor that is in a parent's name with the intention of funneling that money back to the parent after finalizing the divorce.
Marital assets exist in other forms besides cash. If you think your spouse is trying to gain an upper-hand in property division proceedings, you may want to closely observe any activity occurring regarding other things you own, such as jewelry or artwork. Selling or buying new pieces may be a sign of a hidden asset problem.
What to do if you think you've discovered hidden assets
California is one of nine states that operate under community property laws in divorce. This means the court will assume that marital assets should be divided 50/50, although an even split is not a foregone conclusion. You can see where hiding assets could potentially cause you to receive far less than what you may have a right to, so if you suspect that you have uncovered a hidden asset problem, you'll want to talk to your divorce attorney about how to proceed.