Is your spouse hiding money or other assets during divorce proceedings? A divorce can be one of the most difficult and contentious times in a person’s life. The process is often incredibly emotional, so working through the personal dynamics is hard enough. When you add in the logistical work of equitably and honestly splitting up the possessions and assets of a shared life, it can become overwhelming.
One thing that can make this process even more challenging is when a spouse has made the unethical decision to hide money or assets in order to keep them out of the divorce proceedings. The trickiest part about this deception is that you can’t make a legal case for the inclusion of assets when you don’t know about them. Watching for warning signs that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is hiding money or other assets in order to keep them out of the divorce proceedings can protect you from taking an unjustified loss.
Sometimes, these signs may appear even before divorce is on the table — and are often a sign that a divorce is imminent. Often, these signs will begin showing up after it is clear divorce is the next step (but perhaps before any official legal proceedings have begun).
1. Extravagant Gifts
One method by which people conceal assets is through gifting items of value. Often, these “gifts” are not actually gifts at all, and the recipient intends to return them after the divorce proceedings are complete. In this way, someone can remove an asset from consideration for an equitable divorce split without actually giving up the item and its value.
Watch for unusual or extravagant gifting behavior such as artwork, furniture, or jewelry. Even cars and property can be subjected to this treatment though the legal hurdles for passing ownership of those items make it more difficult to conceal. Family heirlooms or valuable household goods are more commonly concealed in this way.
2. Private Mailboxes
Concealing financial activity is a lot easier when the physical evidence is under control. If your spouse suddenly and unexpectedly starts using a post office box or another private mailbox, it could be a sign they are intentionally hiding important paperwork.
As many of the signs on this list, this activity is no guarantee that the other spouse is up to no good. After all, if you are going through a divorce, a change in address is potentially forthcoming, and having mail sent to their office or a family member’s house may be part of the process. However, it is certainly a red flag that could give you pause, particularly when other signs your spouse is hiding money are present. Consider whether important documents that you used to see regularly — such as bank or credit card statements — are now concealed.
3. Unusual and Expensive Spending
One sign that a spouse is hiding money and assets is a mismatch between their claimed income and their actual spending habits. If your spouse is making purchases of goods far beyond the income and assets they claim to have, it can be a clear sign that all is not as it seems.
The sudden appearance of luxury goods like expensive clothing or jewelry, new cars, or exotic vacations could be a warning. The money to pay for these luxuries may be coming from a hidden source.
4. Increased Business Expenses
If your spouse owns their own business, this status can provide cover for concealing money and assets. Warning signs within business ownership include a steep increase in operating costs or a sudden and unexplainable report of business failure.
If your spouse is using their business to hide money and assets, they could be reporting losses or expenses that are not accurate to help them in their deception.
5. Financial Document Turmoil
Obviously, financial documents are key to getting a full picture of what assets and money actually exist within the marriage, so any strange behavior around financial documents can be a serious warning sign.
If your spouse gets upset when you ask to see financial documents, that’s a red flag. Likewise, if financial documents have suddenly gone missing or have been destroyed, it’s increasingly likely that your spouse is hiding something.
6. Electronic Password Control
As you can see, hiding money and assets requires the concealment of official records and accounts. Much of this information is now readily available through online portals. While shredding physical documents is still certainly a red flag, modern-day concealment often includes controlling electronic access.
If your spouse has changed the passwords on joint accounts or is refusing to tell you the password to access them, it can certainly be a sign that assets and money are being hidden.
Seek assistance from an experienced Toronto divorce lawyer
A divorce is a tumultuous time in a person’s life. Even when the divorce itself is relatively straightforward and amicable, making sure that the assets are split fairly and accurately is an essential foundational step to the next phase in your life. Speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer can help you make sure that you’ve considered all the possibilities and have an accurate picture of your full shared assets before dividing them.