Photo of Professionals at McCoy Fatula, APC
Photo of Professionals at McCoy Fatula, APC

Now you see it, now you don’t: Beware hidden assets in divorce

On Behalf of | May 14, 2017 | Divorce

No two marriages are exactly the same. Yours might have been similar to others in California where you and your spouse shared everything 50/50 down to your very last penny. Other married couples prefer to retain financial independence from each other, even going so far as to maintain separate bank accounts. More often than not, however, most marriages include a substantial amount of shared property and interests. If a divorce occurs, each spouse is bound to adhere to laws governing such matters in this particular state.

California happens to be one of only nine community property states, meaning the court divides all assets equally in divorce. You obviously can’t split a house, boat or car down the middle, but the court can evenly distribute assets based on the value of all jointly owned properties in marriage. This fact places some spouses at risk for criminal charges.

Illegal behaviors in divorce

When it comes to listing everything you own for the purpose of property division in divorce, full disclosure is the name of the game. In fact, any person who tries to divert money or otherwise conceal assets for the expressed purpose of keeping it out of the other spouse’s reach in divorce places himself or herself at risk for major legal problems. If you notice one of more of the following, it may be a sign of trouble:

  • If you and your spouse maintained joint bank accounts during marriage, and you suddenly learn about the existence of a separate account in your spouse’s name, it may alert you to a potential problem.
  • If you notice withdrawals on your joint account of which you were unaware and do not approve, you may want to further investigate the matter.
  • Did your spouse suddenly begin receiving cash payments at work? This is often a means for keeping money out of the other spouse’s hands.
  • If you know your spouse was slated for a monetary bonus or reimbursement at work, and it was delayed at the spouse’s request, it may be because he or she is trying to wait until after your divorce is finalized so those funds are not subject to marital property division.
  • Did your spouse unexpectedly make financial loans to one or more friends or relatives? Many spouses wishing to hide assets provide fraudulent loans to others when they are actually having those people hold on to their money until the court finalizes their divorce.

It’s no secret many California spouses choose divorce as the most viable option when they are otherwise unable to resolve contentious issues between them. The last thing you need to worry about when facing similar circumstances is having to hunt down money or other assets you rightfully own. In addition to creating emotional harm, such situations often bring undue financial hardship to those unprepared to meet the expenses of divorce and their new single lifestyles, especially if they’re raising children in the process.

On one hand, you may not even want to mention your suspicions that your former spouse may be committing a crime. On the other hand, however, not bringing the issue to the attention of appropriate parties may do more harm than good in the long run. One way to seek guidance in a confidential manner is to request a private meeting with an experienced family law attorney.

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