Divorce is complicated and often contentious. When you get divorced, you have to split assets equitably under Florida law. This means that assets are typically split 50/50 or somewhere around that percentage.
As you can imagine, not many people like the fact that they have to fork over roughly half of their assets to their spouse in a divorce. This is especially true if there is extreme bitterness or anger involved.
This means that they may feel compelled to go to extremes to hide assets. People seem to think that if they hide some cash or stocks, then nobody will find out. Wrong!
Hidden assets can make a divorce complicated. If there are hidden assets, the judge cannot make a good decision on how to split assets fairly.
Hiding assets is not only immoral but also illegal. Because each spouse is required to divulge all assets, hiding assets during a divorce is considered contempt of court. A judge may issue various forms of punishment, such as requiring the spouse who has hidden the assets to pay the other spouse’s legal fees. The judge may grant higher alimony payments or charge the person with fraud. Jail time may also be a possibility.
It can be difficult to know if your spouse is hiding assets. However, if you have a feeling that there’s a possibility, it is important to tell your divorce lawyer. They can find ways to uncover the assets. They can hire a skilled private investigator or forensic accountant to comb through everything and look for hidden assets. They can examine financial records, determine where missing money has gone, how it was moved, and how it may be recovered.
Your lawyer can also file motions for discovery. These motions may include:
- Document demands. Your lawyer can compel your spouse to produce bank and broker account records, tax returns, financial statements, loan documents, and other documentation.
- Inspection demands. Your lawyer can demand your spouse allow you to inspect the property and determine its value with help from an expert.
- Requests to admit facts. In this form of discovery, your lawyer presents your spouse with facts about assets. Your spouse has to determine whether the statements are true or false.
It is important that you do not let your spouse hide money and cheat you out of what you are entitled to receive.
Ways to Hide Assets
People may hide assets in various ways. Here are some common methods:
- Hiding cash. This is a fairly common and easy way to hide assets. Your spouse may have been making large withdrawals over the past year and then socking away the cash somewhere. Look for bank statements that prove this activity.
- Lying about the asset. Some people just never mention an asset, like stocks, so they pretend it does not exist. They may even claim that the asset was sold or lost a long time ago.
- Buying pricey possessions. Before a divorce, people may use cash to buy expensive items such as artwork, furniture, jewelry, and even cars. This is because cash is harder to trace. Then they return the items after the divorce is finalized and get the money back.
- Giving money to family or friends. Your spouse may give a large sum of money to family or friends under the guise of a loan. Then, once the divorce is finalized, your spouse gets the money back. If your spouse mentions a loan, ask for any documentation to prove it. Sometimes they may just give the money away, particularly to a new love interest.
- Delayed bonuses or raises. If your spouse is expecting a bonus or raise, they may work with the boss to delay it until after the divorce so you do not get a part of it. It can be hard to tell if this is happening, but if you find out, you should let your lawyer know so they can question your spouse’s employer about the matter.
- Delayed invoicing and payments. If your spouse owns their own business, they may find ways to delay payment on invoices and contracts so they make more money once the divorce is done. They may hold off on signing contracts. They may also create a fake worker, make salary payments to the worker, and then void the checks after the divorce has been finalized.
- Underreporting cash payments. A person who earns cash tips or payments can easily hide this money and underreport their income. So can a person who earns extra cash from a side gig. If you find out that your spouse is suddenly making less money now that divorce is on the table, this could be why.
- Purchasing digital assets. Digital assets such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have become more popular in recent years. They are not physical assets; instead, they exist as digital code, making them easy to transfer and hide. There are clues that your spouse might be involved in cryptocurrency. They include mining hardware, tax returns, and bank statements. Cryptocurrency can be volatile but valuable, so people try to hide these assets, but they can be uncovered with a little work.
Seek Legal Help
Sometimes people refuse to part with certain assets in a divorce. They may take elaborate steps to hide them, which can lead to legal ramifications.
If hidden assets are a concern in your divorce, Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you uncover them so that asset distribution is equitable. Schedule a consultation today by calling (954) 346-6464 or filling out the online form.