What To Do If Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets

Let's Untie the Knot | What To Do If Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets

It is not uncommon for a spouse to conceal some of the marital assets during the divorce.  However, hiding assets, income and debt is not only unethical; it is also illegal and subject to severe penalties if discovered.  The spouse hiding the assets can be extremely manipulative and have knowledge to which the other spouse is not privy.  This combination of factors can make it very difficult for the wronged spouse to make his or her case. 

Oregon is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court divides the assets “fairly” between the spouses.  In an equitable distribution state, the court starts with the presumption that marital assets should be divided 50/50, but allows parties to introduce evidence that they deserve a bigger share based on various contributions, such as their greater contribution to marital assets or the lesser earning potential of a spouse. 

Spouses have hidden assets in almost every imaginable way.  For example, a spouse can bury cash in the basement, transfer money to a friend or set up trusts.  Spouses who own businesses have a number of ways of hiding assets, including laundering money through the business, paying “salaries” to people who don’t even exist or waiting until after the divorce to make a particularly lucrative deal.  If your spouse has handled your personal bookkeeping during the marriage, you are what some attorneys refer to as the “out-spouse.”  This means that you don’t have the same access to financial information as your spouse does.  If you believe that your spouse is hiding assets, you will want to contact an attorney and perhaps a forensic accountant.  If you don’t believe that your spouse will disclose all the financial information in a divorce, you or your attorney will have to use the discovery process to obtain all relevant information.

The discovery process typically involves the following methods of retrieving information:

The discovery process is a great way to obtain financial information because the court has the authority to compel compliance.  If your spouse violates the order, a court may punish your spouse by imposing a “sanction,” which can include a monetary fine or even a judgment against your spouse on a particular issue. 

Other ways to look for hidden assets during a divorce include:

Although your marriage was supposed to be based on trust and honesty, when it comes to assessing assets, don’t take your spouse’s word for it.  Do an exhaustive search of all the financial information you can get your hands on to get a full and complete sense of what you are entitled to in your divorce.
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