It’s an unfortunate reality that people contemplating a divorce, or even those who have started the process, think deviously about how they can keep as many jointly-owned assets as possible when the divorce is over. Each spouse worries that the other will unfairly end up with a larger share. While most people are forthright with their financial disclosures to the court, some are not. If you feel that something unusual is going on, it is best to pay attention to your intuition and investigate.
How Do I Know What to Look For?
Spouses who seek to hide assets generally have somewhat predictable behavior and believe that they will never be caught. Hence, it is important to be alert and follow your instincts if you notice something unusual going on. You are entitled to your fair share of your marital assets under the law. It’s important to protect and track them, if possible.
Here are five signs that your spouse may be hiding assets for you:
- New accounts: Watch for bank and credit card statements from new or different companies, or those that are addressed to only your spouse.
- Unfamiliar transfers and withdrawals: Keep an eye out for ATM receipts from new banks and automatic (ACH) withdrawals from joint accounts to unfamiliar accounts, especially if they are in large amounts and your spouse never discussed this with you
- Expensive purchases: One way that dishonest spouses try to drain funds is to buy expensive cars, art or antiques. While the spouse may disclose these assets to the court, the listed value may be significantly lower than the market value or purchase price, i.e. the amount of cash drained from your joint account to buy it.
- Sudden income loss: For spouses who are paid in cash, be suspicious of sudden drops in income even though the spouse has continued the same work schedule. It’s easy to “dispose” of cash by repaying fake loans or debts, paying fake employees, paying living expenses for someone with whom your spouse is having an affair, opening custodial accounts for your children or stashing it with relatives who promise to return it after the divorce is over.
- Trips to the post office: On your bank or credit card statements, look for payments that look like they are going to the US Postal Service. Your spouse may have opened a PO Box to receive mail or paychecks he or she does not want you to know about.
What Can You Do?
You should contact a family law attorney right away. If you are in the process of divorce already, your attorney will need to know any information you’ve discovered.
Through the legal process, you can request copies of documents and verification of suspicious transactions. You also can ask to inspect property and safety deposit boxes. Your attorney will also work with investigators and forensic accountants it necessary, to dig deeper into your very-legitimate suspicions.
If you have any doubts that your spouse is being truthful about your finances, joint assets or income, contact an experienced asset protection lawyer to discuss your options.