It’s illegal to falsify or conceal your assets during a divorce, but many people try to do it anyway. They hope that by hiding their assets from the court they can get away with giving their former spouses less than they deserve.
Understandably, the more assets involved with divorce, the more difficult it can be to find whatever assets your spouse may be hiding. Still, as Forbes notes, people are often less inventive than they think, and they tend to hide assets in the same ways.
Four common methods for hiding assets
Whatever the method, the goal for those hiding assets is always the same: They hope that by shrinking their visible income and assets they can trick their partners or the court into giving them a favorable settlement. Therefore, hiding assets isn’t just about storing them in some out-of-sight location; it’s about the tricks and lies people use to make themselves look like they have less than they actually do.
With that in mind, Forbes claims the four most common ways to hide assets include:
- Claiming they don’t exist
- Selling them or gifting them to a temporary owner
- Claiming the assets were lost
- Inventing or taking on “false” debt
Depending on the asset, it can take a good deal of work to root through the lies and deception, but if you don’t trust your spouse, it might be worth the effort. In some cases, hidden assets can make or break the financial equity of a divorce. In one high-profile divorce, the husband’s filings claimed he was worth $25 million while his wife’s attorneys claimed he was worth many, many times more. The assets the wife claimed had been hidden would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Other ways people hide assets
That high-profile divorce story also pointed out another truth about hidden assets. Some people may use tools like trusts to protect their assets. These are entirely legal, and some of them may even shield assets from divorce. However, there’s often a lot of legal gray area surrounding these tools, and their protections might not hold up if they mix marital and separate assets. The circumstances matter.
Some of these trickier concerns include:
- Business valuations
- Unvested stock options
- Prenuptial agreements
These may be entirely legitimate and hold up to review. Or they may be unfairly putting you at a significant financial disadvantage. Either way, they’re often worthy of review.
Financial security is worth the work
It takes time, effort and money to look for hidden assets. But if you suspect your spouse is trying to cheat you, that time, effort and money may very well prove to be a good investment. Maryland says you deserve an equitable property division. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get half the marital estate, but it does mean you deserve your fair share. If you don’t look for hidden assets, you won’t find them. And you need to find them to get your fair share.