Hiding Assets in Divorce: Red Flags, Searches and Penalties

Divorce is a legal process that dissolves a marriage between two individuals, ending their legal and social ties. It is a significant life event that can be emotionally and financially challenging for both parties involved. Divorce has become increasingly common in modern society, with statistics showing that around 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. The divorce process can vary depending on the country and state or province in which the couple lives. In most cases, divorce proceedings require a formal legal process involving a family court. The legal system will address issues such as property division, child custody, spousal support, and child support. The process of divorce can be initiated by one or both spouses, depending on the specific laws and regulations of the jurisdiction.

Divorce can be a highly emotional and stressful experience, and it is essential to seek professional support and guidance during this time. Many couples benefit from counseling, therapy, and mediation services to help them navigate the complex emotional and legal aspects of divorce. For the legal aspect, a competent lawyer is necessary and we here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are dedicated to making the process a lot smoother and easier for our clients. In some cases, couples may be able to negotiate an uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on the terms of the separation. This can help to minimize the stress and costs associated with the legal process, and may be a preferable option for couples who wish to avoid a lengthy court battle.

Dividing Assets in A Divorce

As mentioned, there are several issues that come with the divorce process, and dividing property and assets fairly between the spouses is one of them. This process can be a complex and contentious issue, particularly in cases where significant assets are involved. The court will consider a range of factors, including the length of the marriage, the income and financial contributions of each spouse, and the needs of any children involved. Assets in this case include real estate, cars, furniture, bank accounts, investments, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, and even intangible assets like patents or copyrights. Assets can be acquired during a marriage, and in some cases, before the marriage as well.

When a couple gets a divorce, their assets are divided through a process called equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is a legal concept that means dividing assets in a way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. This means that each spouse will receive a portion of the assets that is proportionate to their contribution to the marriage, and other relevant factors.

Factors Considered in Dividing Assets

When dividing assets in a divorce, there are several factors that are considered by the court. These factors include:

  • Length of the Marriage: The length of the marriage is an essential factor in dividing assets. Typically, the longer the marriage, the more likely that assets will be divided equally.
  • Age and Health of Each Spouse: The age and health of each spouse are also taken into account. If one spouse is significantly older or in poor health, they may receive a larger share of the assets.
  • Income and Earning Potential: The income and earning potential of each spouse are also considered. If one spouse earns significantly more than the other, they may receive a smaller share of the assets.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: The contributions of each spouse to the marriage are also considered. This includes both financial contributions and non-financial contributions, such as caring for children or maintaining the household.
  • Debts: Debts are also divided during the divorce. This includes any outstanding loans, credit card debt, and mortgages.
  • Custody of Children: If there are children involved, custody arrangements may also impact how assets are divided.

Hiding Assets in A Divorce

Going through a divorce can be an emotional and stressful experience, and the division of assets can often be a contentious issue. Unfortunately, some individuals may try to hide assets during a divorce in order to keep them from being divided, which is not only unfair but also illegal. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the red flags of hiding assets in a divorce.

Hidden assets in this case are any assets that are intentionally concealed or undervalued by one spouse during divorce proceedings. These assets may include bank accounts, investments, real estate, business interests, and personal property. Hidden assets can significantly impact the division of property during a divorce, as the court may divide assets based on incomplete or false information.

Red Flags of Hiding Assets in A Divorce

Here are some of the red flags of hiding assets during the divorce process:

  • Unusual financial activity: If your spouse’s financial activity suddenly changes, such as large cash withdrawals, transfers, or purchases, it may be a sign that they are hiding assets.
  • Unexplained debts: If your spouse claims to have unexplained debts, it may be an attempt to justify the depletion of assets. Debt can be used to offset the value of assets, which can impact the division of property.
  • Sudden business changes: If your spouse owns a business, sudden changes to the business structure, such as selling off assets, transferring ownership, or reducing profits, may be an attempt to hide assets.
  • Lack of documentation: If your spouse refuses to provide documentation of financial transactions or assets, it may be a sign that they are hiding assets. Documentation, such as bank statements, tax returns, and investment statements, is critical in determining the value of assets.
  • Transferring assets to a third party: If your spouse transfers assets to a third party, such as a family member or friend, it may be an attempt to hide those assets from the divorce proceedings.
  • Unreported income: If your spouse fails to report income on tax returns or financial statements, it may be an attempt to hide assets. This can include income from a side business or freelance work.
  • Overvalued debts: If your spouse claims to have significant debts that are valued higher than the assets they own, it may be an attempt to offset the value of assets and reduce the amount they will have to pay in the divorce settlement.
  • Secret accounts: If your spouse has secret bank accounts or credit cards that they have not disclosed, it may be a sign that they are hiding assets.

Searches for Hidden Assets

If there are concerns about hidden assets during a divorce, there are several searches that can be conducted to uncover them. These searches include:

  • Bank account searches: Bank account searches can be conducted to uncover hidden accounts or unusual financial activity.
  • Asset searches: Asset searches can be conducted to uncover hidden assets, such as real estate, investment accounts, or business interests.
  • Social media searches: Social media searches can be conducted to uncover evidence of hidden assets or unusual financial behavior.
  • Credit report searches: Credit report searches can uncover information about hidden debts or financial activity.
  • Tax return searches: Tax return searches can uncover information about hidden income or assets.
  • Hire a forensic accountant: A forensic accountant can be invaluable in uncovering hidden assets, as they have specialized skills and knowledge that can help them identify discrepancies in financial records.
  • Use legal tools: Your attorney can use legal tools such as subpoenas and depositions to gather information about your spouse’s finances. Sometimes, a judge may also order your spouse to disclose all of their assets and income.

Penalties for Hiding Assets

Hiding assets during a divorce is illegal, and the consequences can be severe. The penalties for hiding assets can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but in general, they can include:

  • Contempt of Court: If a spouse is caught hiding assets during a divorce, they could be held in contempt of court. Contempt of court is a serious offence that can result in fines, imprisonment, or both. The court may also require the spouse to pay the other party’s legal fees and costs associated with uncovering the hidden assets
  • Property Forfeiture: In some cases, the court may order the forfeiture of the hidden assets. For example, if a spouse transferred assets to a third party to conceal them, the court may order the transfer to be reversed, and the assets returned to the marital estate. The court may also award a larger share of the marital assets to the other spouse as compensation.
  • Reduced Alimony or Child Support: A spouse who hides assets during a divorce may be ordered to pay higher alimony or child support payments than they would have otherwise. However, if the hidden assets are discovered, the court may reduce the amount of alimony or child support payments the spouse is ordered to pay.
  • Criminal Charges: In some cases, hiding assets during a divorce can lead to criminal charges. For example, if a spouse falsified financial statements or tax returns to hide assets, they could be charged with fraud, which is a criminal offence. If convicted, they could face fines, probation, or imprisonment.


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Can prenuptial agreements affect asset division?

Yes, prenuptial agreements can impact the division of assets in a divorce. However, the court can invalidate a prenup if it is found to be unfair or if it was signed under duress.

Why do people hide assets?

During a divorce, some people may attempt to hide assets in order to keep them from being divided between themselves and their spouse.

What is marital property?

Marital property refers to the assets and debts that a couple has acquired during the marriage. Depending on the jurisdiction, some assets that were acquired before the marriage may also be considered marital property.

What is separate property?

Separate property is the property that each spouse owned before the marriage or acquired after separation. This property is not subject to division in a divorce.

How is property divided in a divorce?

In most jurisdictions, property is divided equitably between the two parties. Equitable division does not necessarily mean an equal division. Instead, the court will consider various factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial contributions of each spouse, and the earning potential of each spouse.

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