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Hidden assets in divorce: what you should know

One critical aspect of your divorce will be the division of assets. These may include property, vehicles, cash, trusts, stock holdings, investment accounts, a business, and high-value personal items such as jewelry. Successfully hidden assets won't be subject to division. Although it is unethical, unfair and illegal, many divorcing individuals do attempt to hide assets.

How do I know if my spouse is hiding money?

If your spouse starts acting defensively regarding finances or suddenly seems more controlling when it comes to expenditures, they may be redirecting funds or re-organizing marital assets. They may also seem to experience a loss of or decrease in income. This can happen if your spouse defers commissions or a bonus until after the divorce. If your spouse has a business it may be even easier to delay, redirect, or hide funds. If he hires additional employees but isn't acquiring new business, that's a red flag. Your spouse may even overpay taxes, anticipating a refund check after the divorce. Or you may notice that bank and investment statements are no longer being delivered to your home address -- another red flag.

What if I think my spouse is hiding assets?

If you haven't been part of the financial planning for your family and in many cases even if you have, you may not know for sure where all your financial assets are. If you believe your spouse is keeping financial secrets from you during a divorce, talk to your divorce attorney as soon as possible. By employing forensic accounting methods and addressing the possibility of hidden assets early on, your attorney can help uncover secret accounts or hidden property.

Fortunately, it is becoming easier to uncover hidden assets due to technological advances. Some of these are legal and some are not. If you use illegal methods to try and uncover information about your spouse's finances, this will work against you in the divorce and you may even end up in jail. It's fine to use a search engine to obtain information, and LinkedIn and public records are fair game. But installing keystroke-recording software on your home computer or tracking software in your spouse's car is not. It is critical that you speak to an experienced family and divorce lawyer about uncovering hidden assets before you get yourself into trouble.

Marital assets should be divided as fairly as possible in a divorce, and your financial future depends on understanding how your finances will change after the divorce is final. But it's up to you to show proof of all your joint assets. Retain copies of financial statements, taxes, property deeds, retirement plans and any other related documents, and see your divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

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