In New Jersey, if you decide to get a divorce, the marital property is divided equally between you and your spouse. Although many assume that this is a 50-50 split, circumstances may warrant giving more property to one spouse over another. Because of this, some spouses attempt to save some of the marital property for themselves and try to hide it from the other spouse. To ensure fair property division, everyone contemplating a divorce should watch out for signs that their spouse is attempting to hide property.
Although you may think hiding assets is limited to a few bad apples, in reality, it occurs more often than you may think. According to a survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education, about three in five surveyed admitted to hiding cash from their spouse. About 31 percent of those with combined assets with a spouse also admitted that they had been deceptive about the finances. Unfortunately, women are most often the victim of this deception, as 65 percent of women versus 47 percent of men said that their spouse has lied to them about debt, finances or money earned.
Red flags to watch out for
Although not always conclusive of malfeasance, experts say there are several behaviors that should give you cause to investigate whether your spouse is being truthful about disclosing assets. Some of such behaviors include:
• Maintaining sole control over finances or refusing to let you see bank or credit card statements and other financial documents
• Having a location outside the home where you do not have regular access, such as an office or a P.O. Box, where he or she may have financial statements sent
• Suddenly deletes financial accounting programs or removes the computer’s hard drive (or other place of storing financial documents) in the period before or during the divorce
• Having locations within the home where you do not have access, such as a locked drawer or password-protected computer
• Suddenly reporting a significant decrease in marital assets or financial struggles of a family business without apparent cause
• Opening new bank accounts
• Suddenly splurges on items such as jewelry, car, art or other flashy items
• Having a drug or gambling problem
• Attempting to have you sign important legal or financial documents (e.g. tax returns, powers of attorney or deeds) without giving you time to read them
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, so it is important for you to make note of virtually any suspicious behaviors just before or during the divorce process, as the desire to hide assets from you may be the cause.
Consult an attorney
If you suspect your spouse of hiding assets, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can use the discovery process and work alongside forensic accountants to uncover any financial deception and ensure you receive a fair settlement in the divorce.