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How People Hide Assets during Divorce—and How We Find Them

  • Jul 29, 2021
  • The Harr Law Firm

Woman hiding cash from man behind her backDivision of assets is always one of the most contentious parts of a divorce. But the issue gets particularly messy when you’re involved in a high-asset divorce. With so much at stake, people tend to dig their heels in even harder than normal. Additionally, a large amount of assets can make it easier to slip some of those assets under the radar when disclosing financial assets. It’s not unusual for partners in a high-asset divorce to try to hid assets, so if this is something you’re concerned about, keep reading to learn more about how assets are most often hidden—and how we can help you find them.

Common Ways of Hiding Assets

There are many different ways a spouse can try to hide assets, and the exact methods for doing so will vary depending on what assets you actually have. Here are a few common tactics we’ve seen:

  • Hiding assets in the business – If your spouse owns a business, they may use it to shelter financial assets and try to ferret those funds away during your divorce. For example, they might postpone lucrative business deals until after the divorce is finalized. In some cases, they may even create imaginary employees and pay those non-existent workers a high salary to make it look like those funds have left the business, when in fact, they’ve moved it to a private, undisclosed account of their own.
  • Trusts and gifts to friends – A common method of hiding money for those who don’t own a business is to set up a trust or “gift” money to someone who will return the money after the divorce is finalized. If one spouse already has a new romantic partner, they might move money to that person’s account, or use marital assets to pay for their new partner’s expenses to minimize the assets that will be divided.
  • Undisclosed accounts and investments – Oftentimes, one partner handles the bulk of the finances in a marriage. If a divorce looms on the horizon, this partner might set up new accounts or purchase investments (stocks, real estate, etc.) without telling their spouse. They will then try to hide those accounts and investments, not disclosing them during the divorce, in the hopes of keeping those assets to themselves.
  • Undervaluing assets – If you have physical assets worth a lot of money (cars, art collections, jewelry, etc.) many spouses may attempt to undervalue those assets during the divorce proceedings. They can then negotiate to have the assets divided in what appears to be a fair manner, when they’re truly getting higher-valued items.

Again, the methods of hiding assets is widely varied, and these are just a few of the broad, common tactics we see. Many people can be quite creative and clever in the methods they use. But more often than not, we can find those assets during the divorce process.

How We Find Hidden Assets

At the Harr Law Firm, we’re proud of our ability to locate hidden assets. There are a few ways that we do this. The first is through the discovery process of your divorce proceedings. In this stage of divorce, we gather evidence prior to the trial; we can request specific documents and require your spouse to answer certain questions. If you suspect they’re hiding assets, we can get copies of tax documents, account statements, and loan documents to track those assets down. We also know what questions to ask to bring out the truth regarding what’s been hidden.

We can also require your spouse to undergo a deposition. During a deposition, your spouse answers questions under oath, often while being recorded. Lying during a deposition is punishable by law, so very few people will risk legal consequences simply to hide some marital assets.

We also employ an exceptional forensic accounting team with the necessary skills to come through business accounts and financial statements to find the little inconsistencies that can point to assets being hidden. If necessary, we can request access to marital property and bring an appraiser to ensure all valuable assets are properly valued during the divorce.

Penalties for Hiding Assets

When a partner decides to hide assets, they usually do so without realizing there are serious penalties for doing so. A judge will often order the partner who has hidden assets to pay their spouse a larger share of the assets than if the assets had been properly disclosed. In some cases, a spouse can even face jail time for continuing to hide assets.

If you’re going through a divorce and think your spouse may be hiding assets, contact the Harr Law Firm today, and we’ll put our forensic accounting team to work finding those assets for you.