Is Your Spouse Hiding Money in Advance of Filing for Divorce?
Filing for divorce starts a long and complicated road of decisions that will affect the rest of a couple’s life, much of which is driven by the fact that marital property must be divided. No one enjoys giving up their property, least of all a spouse who wants out of a marriage, but avoiding this outcome, without a prenuptial agreement, is not possible. As a consequence, some spouses, thinking of divorce in the long-term, will start to find ways to conceal income and other assets with the intent of not sharing them with the other spouse as part of the divorce settlement. This tactic is also used to reduce the child support and alimony obligations a spouse may face. Spouses who suspect this may be going on must take steps to verify this possible deceit and to secure the assets from complete dissipation and disposal. However, suspecting deceit and proving it are entirely different from one another, and usually requires hiring a forensic accountant to trace where money is located and how it was spent. First, though, a spouse must recognize the signs something is off, as well as know what the legal consequences of this behavior is on the outcome of a divorce case. Both of these issues often drive how extensively a spouse wants a forensic accountant to delve into finances and how to approach negotiating a settlement or litigating a resolution. These factors will be explored below.
Signs of Hidden Assets
How a couple decides to divide financial responsibilities varies by relationship, but it is not uncommon for one spouse to take the lead on managing the family’s finances. Depending on the level of control and transparency of this division, it can create issues if this spouse decides to conceal assets in contemplation of divorce. There are, however, usually changes in behavior and attitude that indicate a spouse is thinking about leaving the relationship, and some of these red flags, which should prompt action when noticed, are:
- Large withdrawals from joint accounts without notice or discussion;
- Opening an account in a child’s name;
- Gifting money to family and friends;
- Multiple cell phones;
- Paying fake employees;
- Overpaying income taxes; or
- Taking unexpected trips.
When these signs appear consistently, and particularly when multiple aspects appear, the other spouse should take action to determine if concealment is happening. This often involves hiring a private investigator, requesting tax returns from the IRS, and as mentioned above, perhaps hiring a forensic accountant to analyze financial records. The path to finding hidden assets will vary by case, but once proven, can significantly affect the outcome of divorce. First, Florida is an equitable property division state, which means the default is to equally divide marital property between spouses. However, one factor courts must consider in this matter is whether a spouse deprived the other of marital assets for non-marital purposes during the two years before the divorce petition was filed or while the case was pending. In these circumstances, a court will often give the financially-injured spouse a greater share of the couple’s property to account for this behavior. Further, alimony and child support awards are based upon the income and financial resources of each spouse, so if hidden assets are an issue, once discovered, this additional money can be considered to increase this obligation.
Speak to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Divorce brings big changes to a couple’s finances, and not every spouse is willing to fairly divide assets. If you suspect your spouse is hiding income or other property, talk to the attorneys at All Family Law Group, P.A. as soon as possible. The longer this behavior lasts, the less likely recovering the assets is possible. Get help before it is too late. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay to schedule a free consultation. They can be reached at 813-672-1900 or via email.