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Preparation key to avoiding shock of hidden assets in divorce

Scouring financial documents can reveal financial impropriety by ex-spouse

One aspect of divorce that is far too common yet receives little popular attention is the issue of hidden assets. Hiding assets, especially in complex divorces, happens much more frequently than many people would like to admit, according to Forbes. While full financial disclosure is the law during divorce, far too often an ex-spouse will try to conceal assets as a way of jockeying for a more favorable divorce outcome. By preparing for the possibility of hidden assets beforehand, divorcing spouses will have a greater chance of protecting their assets and other financial interests from an ex-spouse's financial deceit.

Financial infidelity

While it is difficult to determine exactly just how common hiding assets is during divorce, studies into financial infidelity during marriage are quite revealing. A study by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found that a third of all spouses who had combined accounts had lied to their partner about money. Nearly two-thirds of spouses also admitted to hiding cash from their partners.

Given such high rates of financial impropriety in marriage, it should not be surprising that many spouses fail to be completely upfront about their finances during divorce. By hiding assets, a person makes it difficult for a court to determine the value of a marital estate, thus making it impossible to divide that estate fairly. As such, people caught hiding assets face severe punishments, including fines, the loss of assets, and even criminal fraud charges.

Preventing financial deception

While it is impossible to prevent an ex-spouse from trying to hide assets, people can at least take measures to prevent such financial deceit from succeeding. According to NJBIZ, certain documents, such as tax returns and bank statements, can reveal whether a soon-to-be ex-spouse may be hiding assets. Tax returns, for example, can reveal real estate property that was being kept hidden, while bank statements may show a spouse has been transferring funds to a friend or family member for "safekeeping".

If possible, people should try to get copies of such statements before they file for divorce. While a subpoena can be issued to get hold of these documents once divorce has been filed for, by having these documents beforehand divorcing spouses will typically have a much easier time ensuring that an ex-spouse is not trying to cheat them out of a fair deal.

Dealing with divorce

Hidden assets are just one of the many issues that often come up during complex divorce cases, but they are a reminder of why it is essential to have professional help throughout the process. An experienced family law attorney can help anybody dealing with a divorce understand both the process and how to best protect his or her assets and financial interests during the divorce.