Hiding assets from one’s ex during a divorce is as old as time. Illinois judges have been known to penalize spouses caught hiding assets in divorce cases, but that doesn’t stop people from attempting to conceal money, costly antiques, and other valuable assets in the hopes they will at least succeed until the divorce papers are signed.
If you suspect your spouse has been less than truthful, a lawyer or financial advisor can help you track down hidden or moved assets so that the asset calculation process remains as transparent and accurate as possible. Here are some common asset-hiding signs to look for as you sort through old files and financial records.
Missing Property or Assets
Perhaps the most immediate sign that your spouse is attempting to hide something would be if a valuable item goes missing. It may sound too obvious to pull off, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to conceal expensive art, jewelry and more. Spouses who want to shield property during a divorce may take items from the marital home and hide them elsewhere. If expensive items like jewelry, art, or collectibles have gone missing, this is a huge red flag.
Caginess About Financial Matters
Other common red flags to look for are any attempts to keep financial information from you. There are many possible signs this could be happening: a sudden change of passwords on an online account, the disappearance of financial documents, and the deletion of digital records that contain financial information.
Mind you, this type of behavior doesn’t necessarily indicate a secret fund full of cash has been hidden. But it might make you wonder what else your spouse isn’t telling you. At the very least, it’s a sign to put your feelers on high alert and be on the lookout for other signs of deception. Has your soon-to-be-ex suddenly shifted funds or property from one account to another? The same goes for any signs of odd financial transactions.
Suspicious Business Activity
In many marriages, particularly high-net-worth ones, one or both spouses are often business owners. Being financially complex creatures, companies also present numerous additional ways to fudge the numbers. Keep an eye out for unexplained drops in business income or increases in expenses in another area. Unless you have access to all the same information as your spouse and know how to interpret it, this is another area where a professional might come in handy.
Inexplicable Cash Withdrawals
Frequent cash withdrawals or an unexplained uptick in common expenses may be signs of financial dishonesty. A spouse may receive cash back during purchases at stores multiple times without reporting it. These things can add up. Someone may even transfer money to a friend or relative to try to shield it from asset division during divorce. A lifestyle analysis is a form of investigation conducted by a divorce financial planner that helps uncover hidden assets or income, as well as establish alimony and child support.
Unreported or Underreported Income on Tax Returns
Just like hidden cash, underreported income on tax returns or financial statements is a strong indication your significant other may be trying to undervalue marital assets. They may even overpay taxes in the hopes they will get the refund after the divorce is final. Tax records are a great indicator of the relative wealth of you as a couple, as well as of any businesses either of you owns. An unusual withdrawal from a bank account or disappearance of cash might be reflected somewhere in your tax records, so be sure you have access to them.
Other Sneaky Asset-Hiding Tactics in Illinois
Let’s face it: if there’s a way to hide money then someone has tried it. Divorce lawyers have seen a lot of this type of behavior, which is why they can be very useful in examining financial records to look for telltale signs of deception. Here are a few other tactics spouses have tried:
- Intentionally deferred payment. Delaying signing new contracts or distributing commissions or bonuses can signify someone is hoping this income won’t show up during the asset division process.
- Phony debt. Believe it or not, a spouse may create a phony loan in which to temporarily shield cash. This enables the person to make payments to family members or friends, knowing that he or she will get the money back after the divorce is final.
- Kid’s custodial account. It’s not unheard of to create an account using a child’s social security number. Or someone else’s identity, for that matter. By accessing another person’s identity, they may assume it will be too difficult for their spouse to locate the account.
- Stock transfer. Does your spouse have significant assets in stocks? They may attempt to transfer a stock or investment accounts into the name of a family member or someone else. Ambitious deceivers have even been known to set up dummy companies to temporarily hold assets that will be transferred back to them later.
Contact a trusted family law attorney at the Law Office of David A. King, P.C., if you suspect your spouse isn’t being forthright in your divorce. We are here to help with any aspect of your divorce, including determining whether your spouse may be hiding assets from you.