Ending a marriage is never an easy proposition. In some cases, it can be become a combative and bitter process that leads to a legal battle over various issues, such as child custody and a subject that often causes division in a marriage to begin with – money. In some cases, one spouse may try to get the upper hand against the other through hiding assets or income from the court. This is often more frequent in community property states such as California where all marital property is split down the middle in a divorce no matter who or how it was earned.
If you are moving towards divorce in or around Orange County and you believe hidden assets may be an issue in the process, the most important step you can take is to hire an experienced lawyer. You will want an attorney who has dealt with this type of situation before, who can help you determine the full extent of all the marital assets, and who knows how to locate any that may be hidden. At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, our lead attorneys are Certified California Family Law Specialists, at the top of their profession, who have dealt with this issue and every variation of all other divorce issues in California.
Handling Hidden Assets in a California Divorce
The first step when you know that divorce is inevitable is to get together all of the information you can find regarding your assets and liabilities. This will be needed in order to prepare and file a financial disclosure report. If you believe assets are missing, if funds have been slowly and quietly draining from any accounts, if your spouse’s spending habits have changed, if he or she has grown secretive about those spending habits, or if any other behavior signals to you that something is financially amiss, you need to bring it up with your attorney.
The matter of hidden assets can be handled through the process of discovery, which is a legal way to get answers to questions from your spouse about the matter. This can be done through the court which can force your spouse to provide those answers as well as to provide necessary documentation. The services of a forensic accountant can also be used to review the situation and to find assets that have been hidden.
Various ways can be used to hide assets. These can include but are not limited to:
- Transferring assets to family members including accounts created with children’s names
- Removing money through cash withdrawals
- Exaggerating debts and liabilities
- Taking out loans or hiding cash in bank deposit boxes
- Reporting phony expenses
- Transferring money to offshore accounts
- Delaying earnings or bonuses so as not to receive them until after the divorce
- Hiding money in an online bank account
- Overpaying tax bills so that a refund can be requested after the divorce
- Reporting a lower income than what is actual
- Draining marital income on expensive gifts for third parties, especially in the case of adultery
Intentionally hiding one’s assets in divorce can carry both civil and criminal penalties. Courts can order that the offending spouse pay for any additional legal costs, such as for that of a forensic accountant, or other expenses caused in the matter. It may also decide to grant more in the way of marital property to the other spouse. Offending spouses can also be charged with perjury or fraud that could involve jail time and fines.
Ensure You Receive a Fair Property Division
If you need help sorting through the issue of hidden assets or other problems in a marital property division, we urge you to seek help from Burch Shepard Family Law Group in Newport Beach. Our team is led by Certified California Family Law Specialists who have the resources, knowledge, and skills to see that your interests are vigilantly pursued throughout all phases of your divorce.
Contact us at (949) 565-4158 or online to book a complimentary consultation today.