Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada, LLP
Menlo Park
San Ramon

Seeking hidden assets during divorce

Divorce brings uncertainty, and you may be among those divorcing couples in California who are feeling concerned about your future. Even if you have lived a comfortable life during your marriage, you now face the prospect of losing a great deal, including possessions, income and time with your children.

Based on your understanding of the status of your finances, if everything is fair during your divorce proceedings, you should be able to move into this new phase of life with financial security. However, how would you know if your spouse is stashing away assets, whether to provide more security for his or her own future or simply as a spiteful gesture to keep you from getting your fair share?

Where does it go?

Hiding, dispersing or devaluing assets during a divorce is against the law, and if your spouse is diverting marital assets from property division, you have every right to know and to reclaim what is rightfully yours. If you suspect your spouse is engaging in this behavior, the first thing to do is to notify your attorney and ask him or her to begin an investigation. Some ways in which deceptive spouses hide marital assets include the following:

  • Purchasing investment properties or valuables without your knowledge
  • Funneling money from your joint savings to an individual investment fund
  • Delaying the acceptance of a bonus, retirement benefits or stock options until after the divorce
  • Enlisting the help of friends or family to hold money in the form of a loan

Of course, if your spouse is having an extramarital affair, some of your family assets may be going to rent on a secret apartment or gifts and trips for the new romantic interest. If you are determined to obtain a fair share of property division, you may have to do some work to bring your spouse's deception into the open.

How do you know?

If you suspect your spouse is keeping assets from you, you can investigate in the following ways:

  • Checking at least five years of tax returns for information about income, trusts, real estate and other assets
  • Reviewing checking and savings accounts for unexplained or substantial withdrawals or deposits
  • Making copies of statements from every account you locate
  • Visiting the courthouse for copies of any mortgage applications where assets must be listed
  • Checking with the tax assessor for information about properties your spouse may own

Your attorney may also meet with your spouse's employer and interview family members for information about withheld payments or secret loans, as well as offering suggestions for other places to look for hidden assets. While trust may already be a painful issue between you and your spouse, it is not always wise to take your spouse's word regarding marital assets. Your future security may depend on your own investigations.

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