Money is arguably the most contentious issue in any marriage, so it's only natural that it should take center stage in just about every divorce. Of course, it is imperative to settle your finances as soon as possible, in particular, your marital debts and liabilities. Unfortunately, some spouses have to deal with extreme circumstances that may require detailed investigations and prolonged court proceedings. One of these circumstances is the hiding of assets, meaning the transfer or dissipating of marital assets, for the purpose of preventing one's spouse from receiving a fair share of those assets.
Some methods of hiding assets are very complex, requiring foreign bank accounts, shell corporations, trust accounts in the names of third parties, and other advanced financial schemes. Other methods are much more primitive, but no less damaging. Some spouses, for example, go on massive shopping sprees right before a divorce, thereby reducing the liquid assets in the marriage, which could have an impact on the calculation of spousal support. For the spouse who is due support, it may have the effect of enhancing his or her marital lifestyle, which could also have an impact on alimony calculations.
These seem like extremely manipulative tactics, and most people would have a hard time believing that their spouse could resort to such behaviors. While you shouldn't be paranoid about your spouse's financial decisions, you should always be vigilant of your marital finances. This means having regular access to records such as bank statements, credit card bills, and titles to your marital properties. If your spouse refuses to give you access, or continually insists that he or she will handle the finances, that may be a sign that he or she is hiding assets.
Another common sign of hidden assets is when financial records are being kept in, or forwarded to an area which can only be accessed by your spouse. For example, it's not unreasonable for each spouse to have a private area where they keep a journal, or other personal documents and possessions. It is, however, rather suspicious for a spouse to keep all the financial records in a safe, desk, office, etc., to which the other spouse has no access. You should also be vigilant of P.O. boxes being set up without your knowledge or consent. If your spouse has set up a P.O. box, and you suddenly find that you are no longer, or rarely receiving mail from your bank, credit card companies and other financial institutions, that is definitely cause for concern.
These are just some of the signs that you should look out for during your marriage, especially in the months leading up to the filing of the divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can advise you of other red flags that may indicate hidden assets, and the available methods for confirming these suspicions. For more information on your marital property rights and legal options, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.