Uncovering hidden marital and personal assets in a California divorce

Many divorcing spouses may attempt to conceal personal or marital property, but these assets may be uncovered through careful financial investigation.

When spouses in Huntington Beach get divorced, the property that they acquired while married is subject to division. Spouses may independently agree on the terms of division, or the property may be divided evenly between the spouses in family law court. To ensure that all property is accounted for, spouses must fill out financial affidavits and disclose all of their assets.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for spouses to try to avoid giving up marital assets by hiding them. Spouses may also conceal personal assets in the hope of influencing other aspects of the settlement, such as alimony awards. This is an important risk for anyone going through a divorce to appreciate.

Covering up assets

Forbes explains that spouses may conceal personal and marital assets in various ways. Hidden assets may be held in secret accounts or stored as physical cash. Spouses may temporarily transfer assets to other people or use assets to purchase items that may be hidden or forgotten during the divorce. Spouses may also create false debt, fail to report income or defer income until after the divorce.

Statistics suggest that the practice of hiding resources may be fairly common among married spouses. According to CNBC, one report shows that over 7.2 million Americans have kept a credit card or bank account secret from a live-in partner. Additionally, one-fifth of Americans have hidden a purchase of at least $500 from a partner. If these habits carry over into divorce, many spouses may be at risk for losing out on assets they are legally entitled to.

Discovering hidden assets

According to The Huffington Post, spouses may be able to uncover hidden assets without hiring a forensic accountant or other investigator. Spouses or their legal representatives may request various documents from a spouse who may be hiding personal or marital assets, including:

  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs and 1099 forms
  • Bank account, brokerage account and credit card statements

Spouses can then review these statements for evidence that other assets have not been disclosed. If marital expenses exceed disclosed income, it is possible that other assets are hidden somewhere. Spouses can also look for transfers to other accounts or expensive purchases, which may reflect an attempt at transforming and hiding assets.

With the help of a representative, spouses may also be able to obtain other forms of financial documentation. For example, a spouse's attorney may ask a family law court to subpoena financial documentation of retirement assets from the other spouse's current or past jobs.

Protecting property rights

Even when various signs point to hidden assets, uncovering those assets can be difficult. People who suspect their spouses aren't disclosing all of their assets should consider meeting with a divorce attorney who has experience in this area. An attorney may be able to assist a spouse in investigating financial discrepancies and pursuing a fair settlement.

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