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Understanding how and why spouses hide assets during a divorce

Of all the things that can be said about the divorce process -- it's long, it's emotionally exhausting, it's complicated -- it can't be said that it's predictable. Indeed, a couple may go into a divorce anticipating that there will be arguments over who will get custody of the children and that the division of property will proceed smoothly, only to experience the exact opposite.

Indeed, property division often emerges as one of the single most contentious issues in divorce. That's often because couples either want to hold on to what they perceive (rightly or wrongly) as theirs and/or ensure that their financial future is stable.

While this is understandable, these concerns are sometimes so great that they can drive some spouses to undertake conduct that is both unethical and unlawful: hiding assets.

At first blush, the hiding of marital assets may seem as if it would be a relatively difficult thing to accomplish. However, experts indicate there are multiple avenues through which spouses can accomplish this nefarious objective.

  • Purchase of undervalued and overlooked items: A spouse could purchase a big-ticket item not easily detectable, such as an antique for a business office or an expensive item in a larger collection (i.e., stamps, coins, comic books).
  • Fake stock transfers: A spouse could transfer their stock to a dummy corporation or business partner for the duration of the divorce only to have it transferred back once the divorce is finalized.
  • Withholding of work-related income: A spouse could delay taking on new customers/signing a new contract, commissions, bonuses or salary until after the divorce is finalized.
  • Hiding money: A spouse could simply opt to hide actual cash in a safe, a safe deposit box or even a carefully concealed shoebox.

The point in sharing this information is not to cause spouses to feel unnecessary alarm or suspicion, but rather to impress upon them the importance of working with a skilled legal professional who not only knows how spouses hide assets, but who has access to a team of experts who can help track them down.

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