Asset distribution is a complex aspect of a divorce. Marital assets must be split between spouses in a separation agreement. In Missouri, assets are divided via equitable distribution if the couple separates through litigation. This means that assets are divided according to what the court considers equitable based on several factors. These factors include the contributions of each spouse to the value of marital property and the value of each spouse’s separate property. A complete valuation of separate and marital property is necessary during a divorce.
In some divorces, spouses are not honest with each other about the assets they own or their value. This is more likely in contentious divorces and divorces with high-value assets. If one spouse lies about the amount of separate assets they own, they may end up with a higher share of marital assets than they should. If the court discovers that a spouse is hiding assets, this will alter the division of property decisions and may result in criminal charges. It’s important to know what to do if you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets.
Signs That a Spouse Is Hiding Assets
There are several warning signs indicating that a spouse may be hiding assets. They may begin taking these actions when you have begun the divorce process, or they may start even before it’s begun but after they have decided to file for divorce. Some methods that a spouse may use include:
- ATM cash withdrawals from marital accounts
- Creating a secret trust
- Funds transferred to a third party through fake gifts
- Undervaluing a business or high-value asset
- Overpaying the IRS to receive a high tax refund
- Marital funds moved to individual bank accounts or separate retirement accounts
- Fake loans to friends or relatives
- An account created by a spouse under a child’s name
- Delaying or hiding income, raises, or bonuses until after the divorce
These are not the only warning signs that a spouse may be hiding assets. If a spouse suddenly becomes defensive or secretive about financial accounts and statements, you may want to talk to an experienced divorce attorney. When a spouse hides assets, they are violating your rights. Gather as much financial information as you have available to you, and work with a professional who can investigate the matter properly.
Consequences for Hidden Assets
If a spouse lies and conceals assets during court proceedings and the divorce discovery process, this will affect how the court handles the final divorce decree. This may include:
- Ordering the spouse who hid assets to pay for the other spouse’s attorney costs
- Providing the other spouse with a larger portion of marital assets
- Giving the other spouse any assets that were hidden and discovered
- Filing criminal charges against the spouse who hid assets, such as contempt of court
Missouri courts will rarely rule in favor of a spouse who is discovered to have hidden assets.
The Process of Discovery in Divorce
Hidden assets are usually found during the divorce discovery process, especially with the help of an experienced divorce attorney. Discovery is the formal process of spouses exchanging financial information. This exchange of information is a part of every divorce, but not all divorces have to use the official court-ordered method of discovery. However, if you believe that your spouse is hiding assets, formal discovery is essential. There are several tools in formal discovery that can be used to find hidden assets. These may include:
- Document requests. This includes tax returns and financial account statements.
- Interrogatories. This is a request for information directly from your spouse, which must be answered truthfully.
- Deposition testimonies. Your attorney can ask your spouse questions, which are answered under oath.
An attorney can advocate for the need for these methods to the court. If your spouse is uncooperative with discovery, the court can enforce compliance.
Q: How Do You Find Out If Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets?
A: Review both marital and separate financial information and accounts if you have legal access. These accounts may have information, such as transferred assets, that may point to hidden assets. Documents such as tax returns, bank account information, and other account statements and receipts are all useful. If you do not have access to this information, an attorney can determine other legal methods for obtaining these records.
Q: What Are Signs That a Spouse Is Hiding Assets?
A: Several signs can suggest that a spouse may be hiding assets during a divorce. These include:
- Sudden large withdrawals from marital accounts without explanation
- Paying off debts or giving gifts to unknown other parties
- Transferring funds into a business
- Undervaluing assets like businesses, vehicles, properties, or art
- Preventing a spouse from reviewing financial statements
If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, a qualified divorce attorney can help you determine your next steps.
Q: What Should You Do If You Suspect That Your Spouse Is Hiding Money?
A: Spouses who are not divorcing may not be doing anything illegal by hiding money or assets. However, if spouses have filed for divorce or are in the process of divorcing, hiding assets may result in criminal charges. If you believe that your spouse is hiding assets from you, discuss the situation with your divorce attorney. There are several steps in divorce discovery that a good attorney can use to determine if a spouse has hidden assets. If assets are hidden, the court may award you more marital property or the assets that were hidden. The court may also press criminal charges against your spouse.
Q: How Can You Protect Your Assets in Divorce?
A: Separate assets are not up for division during a divorce, although the value of each spouse’s separate assets does matter when dividing marital assets. Protecting marital assets during the divorce process is easiest with a divorce attorney who can argue for your interests. Resolving your divorce out of court also provides you with more control over the terms of property division. Before you get a divorce, or even get married, you and your spouse can enter into a marital agreement that determines the separation of assets if you ever do divorce.
Defending Your Rights During Divorce
An investigation into your spouse and hidden assets is only as effective as the attorney conducting the examination. You need an experienced divorce attorney who knows what legal steps are most effective to protect your rights. If you believe that your spouse is hiding assets from you to prevent you from obtaining them or to limit the marital assets that you receive, contact Stange Law Firm. We can help defend you.