Where might a spouse hide assets in divorce?

Distrust is a common emotion among many divorcing spouses. Certain people might see distrust as an overreaction. However, some distrust may be reasonable.

Sometimes during the divorce process, one spouse attempts to hide assets in an effort to prevent them from being fairly divided. Hiding assets is illegal and immoral, but some spouses believe they can get away with it anyway. This is especially common when only one spouse manages the family’s finances. Fortunately, there are ways to uncover these hidden assets.

Look for anything out of the ordinary

Generally, people try to hide assets in one of four ways. They may deny the asset exists, transfer the asset to a trusted third party, claim the asset was lost or claim fake debt.

If you think your spouse may have hidden assets, it may be valuable to comb through your family’s financial records. Tax returns may be a good place to start, but you may also want to look through credit card statements, personal balance sheets and property inventories, among other documents. As you do so, try to follow the money and look for anything that seems unusual.

As you go through your finances, be on the lookout for:

  • Delayed bonuses, stock options or raises
  • Fake debt to a family member or a trusted friend
  • Underreported income
  • Underreported value of expensive assets
  • Accounts in your child’s name
  • Salary paid to a fake employee

Trying to locate hidden assets on your own can feel overwhelming, especially if you have not been previously involved with managing your family’s finances. You may consider sharing your concerns with your divorce team and a forensic accountant, who may have alternative methods for getting to the truth.

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