People in high-asset divorces often have considerable opportunities to hide assets from their spouses. It's not legal and it's certainly not right, but it can be done. That's why it's essential for spouses to do some digging if they suspect that a husband or wife hasn't been honest about their finances when required to disclose them during the divorce.
Spouses who have always been hands-on in handling joint accounts, investments, properties and expensive purchases during the marriage are less likely to get duped. However, there are plenty of ways for a spouse to hide money -- particularly if that spouse owns a business or is self-employed.
Creating fake expenses is a common ruse. People can make up or exaggerate business expenses. This causes the business or the individual independent contractor to reflect a lower profit on their taxes. A spouse who does this to cheat a husband or wife is also cheating the government by committing tax fraud.
A spouse who receives large bonuses, commissions or stock options periodically can ask an employer to delay payment until the divorce is finalized to avoid having to divide the money. The same can be done with contracts. People can delay the signing of a lucrative contract until after the divorce. That's why it's essential to keep an eye on your spouse's business, even if you have no interest or involvement in it.
Some people "hide" their money in valuable antiques, artwork, collectibles or jewelry. They may buy something with marital funds and convince their spouse that it's a cheap knock-off. Then they can ask for it in the divorce and sell it for a tidy sum. It's important to watch purchases of this type and ask to see the receipts. If you're uncertain about the value items like this, have them appraised before you negotiate how the property will be divided.
Don't be afraid or ashamed to express concerns about your spouse possibly hiding assets (or debt) to your family law attorney. It happens more often than you think. Your attorney may recommend that you bring in a forensic accountant who is experienced in finding hidden assets. The cost of doing this may be more than offset by what the accountant digs up.
Source: Huffington Post, "Be Smarter: 8 Ways Your Spouse Can Hide Assets Before A Divorce," Roxana Maddahi, accessed March 14, 2018