Divorce can often be a complicated process, and what contributes most to its complexity is dividing up marital assets. Because California is a community property state, property is divided equally between spouses. You might think this would make the process much simpler than in an equitable distribution state, but that’s not always the case.
When one spouse is hiding assets, California’s relatively straightforward approach to property division can become a lot more complicated. In effect, the spouse hiding assets is trying to walk away from the divorce with more than what their real fair share of their marriage’s property would be.
If it sounds like hiding assets is essentially attempting to steal from the marriage for one’s own personal benefit, that’s basically what’s going on. If a spouse is caught hiding assets, the court is inclined to impose sanctions or deliver a judgment that takes missing property into account.
That’s why it’s important for people who suspect their spouse is inclined to hide assets, or may have already done so, to know some of the signs to look for. Read more about these signs below. If you believe your spouse may be hiding assets, be sure to tell your attorney. Forensic accounting can help you investigate the issue and verify if your hunch was more than a hunch after all.
If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, the very first thing you should do is check your financial statements. This means your bank accounts, credit cards, investment portfolios, etc. If you notice any strange activity that you can’t explain, particularly withdrawals or securities sales, it could be a sign that your spouse has been moving money around and hoping you won’t notice.
Anyone involved in a divorce should also be mindful of what they can’t see. If your spouse has changed login credentials to online bank accounts, it could be a sign that they’re trying to make it difficult to see what they’re doing with your marriage’s assets online. If you’re accustomed to having your financial institutions send regular statements in the mail, suddenly failing to receive these when divorce is on the horizon can be another sign that your spouse is attempting to hide assets.
If your spouse’s income suddenly takes a dip or they appear to be earning much less in bonuses and commissions than usual, it may be due to more than just slow business – they could be trying to hide their real earnings from the divorce process.
When a couple is going through a divorce, a spouse may attempt to defer their salary or reserve commissions and bonuses for payment after the divorce is finalized. This is not permissible because any income, bonuses, or commission earned while a couple is married is considered community property.
Deferring any income for payment at a later date doesn’t evade this fact. You still retain a 50% interest in any earnings your spouse is attempting to hide in this manner.
Almost every household contains things of considerable value, be they electronics, furniture, art, jewelry, family heirlooms, and other such items. If you’ve noticed that some of these items have suddenly disappeared from around your home, it could be another sign that your spouse is trying to steal from your marriage.
Your spouse may be pawning these items for cash or selling them online and using a secret bank account to store the funds. Your spouse may even be hiding the items themselves and intends to sell them after the divorce is finalized. This would avoid creating a paper trail that a forensic accountant could discover during the divorce.
Another common way people may attempt to fleece their own marital assets is by giving out loans to friends and relatives. Of course, these usually aren’t really loans. Instead, the individuals receiving money may be agreeing to hold it for your spouse until after they officially become your ex-spouse. Once the divorce is finalized, your ex-spouse’s friends and relatives may return all or some of the money “loaned” to them.
If you weren’t involved in the decision to give the friend or relative a loan – or were even aware that the transaction took place – be sure to discuss this with your attorney. Your lack of knowledge about the transaction may be indicative of your spouse’s attempt to hide an important financial transaction from you.
If you believe your spouse may be hiding assets, we at Creative Family Solutions, Cianci Law, PC can help. Our attorneys have the experience, skills, and resources it takes to help you uncover property that your spouse may have stolen from your marriage.
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