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Hidden assets: Is your spouse trying to fool the court?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | Divorce, Finance, Property Division

When you decided to file for divorce, you didn’t want the situation to turn into a long, drawn-out courtroom battle. You really just wanted to devise a fair settlement plan and sign a co-parenting agreement that keeps your children’s best interests in mind. Your ultimate goal was to amicably resolve your differences, leave the past behind and move on to help your kids adapt to a new lifestyle.

In a perfect world, that’s how all Georgia divorces would unfold. In reality, however, it’s often not so, especially if one of the spouses involved is angry or trying to get revenge against the other. 

Did you recently notice money missing from your jointly-owned bank account? There might be a reasonable explanation– or your spouse might be trying to hide assets before you enter property division proceedings.

How do you find out if your spouse is hiding assets?

In Georgia, hiding assets during a divorce is against the law. When someone tries to keep their money or property a secret during the property division process, it goes against the principles of fairness and transparency that the legal system aims to uphold. 

There are several telltale signs that a spouse may be attempting to hide assets during a divorce. 

One common red flag is the refusal to involve attorneys in the divorce process. Many individuals realize that the presence of legal professionals increases the chances of their asset-hiding schemes being exposed. Those who hide assets rely on their spouse’s limited knowledge, but experienced attorneys are well-versed in locating hidden assets. Other signs that your spouse is hiding assets include:

Loss of control: 

Passwords have changed and you can no longer access your online bank accounts. Bills stop showing up in the mail. If you are being shut out of your shared financial information, it may be because there are transactions your spouse doesn’t want you to know about.

Paperwork and pressure: 

You should always have time to thoroughly review documents before you sign them. If your spouse is shoving papers in your face and pressuring you to sign them and to do so quickly, it may be a sign something is amiss.

The side business is hurting: 

Here is the situation: Your spouse is self employed or has a side business that usually generates income, but that revenue flow has suddenly dried up. Has it really? Or has it just been diverted from on-the-record accounts to other destinations.

Luxury purchases: 

Do your spouse’s recent purchases exceed what you believe his or her purchasing power to be? If your spouse purchases a new car, an expensive vacation or other high-price item, you have to ask yourself: Where is that money coming from?

Prior to divorce, your financial interests were linked with those of your spouse. Now that divorce is here, it is time to start looking out for your own interests. One step you can take in the right direction is to work with a skilled divorce lawyer who knows how to handle complex issues like uncovering hidden assets.

You need to remain vigilant and consult with a knowledgeable attorney if you suspect your spouse is hiding assets during the divorce process. 

Where to Look If You Suspect Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets

Many Georgia spouses have dealt with hidden asset problems in divorce. The following list shows ways people often try to carry out such schemes:

  • As mentioned earlier, if you believe your spouse has been making withdrawals from a joint bank account, you have the right to inquire where the money is going. If your spouse gets defensive or you are not satisfied with the answer, you may want to further investigate the situation.
  • Sometimes, a parent will open a bank account for a minor with the hidden intention of siphoning money into the account that he or she is trying to hide until the court finalizes his or her divorce.
  • A thorough review of tax forms is a good place to start to look for hidden assets. By overpaying the Internal Revenue Service, your spouse may be hoping to eventually get the money back as a refund.
  • It’s not a bad idea to search dresser drawers, closets, the garage or any other location you think your spouse might hide cash. If someone suddenly opens a post office or safety deposit box, it could definitely be a sign of a hidden asset problem.
  • Another common hidden asset plot is to transfer money to a third party. Did your spouse tell you he or she was giving money to a friend or relative as a loan or to pay back a loan you did not know had transpired?

You should consider each of these issues a red flag if you’re headed for property division proceedings and you suspect your spouse is not being fully transparent regarding assets.

What to Do If You Suspect This Problem

Hiding assets in divorce is a nasty, mean-spirited thing to do. It is also illegal, and the judge overseeing your case isn’t likely to look favorably on the party who is trying to beat the system. 

If you suspect that your spouse may try to hide assets during the divorce proceedings, it is crucial to promptly notify your attorney. Even if you have just initiated the divorce process, it is in your best interest to thoroughly investigate your household and business finances.

To safeguard important information, make copies of essential documents such as:

  • Tax returns from the past few years
  • Statements from bank and investment accounts
  • Pay stubs
  • Any other documents that disclose assets and/or debt

Ensure you keep a set of copies in a secure location away from your home if you are still living with your spouse. Additionally, provide a copy to your attorney. It is essential not to store copies on a shared computer to maintain confidentiality.

In the divorce, you will engage in a process called “discovery.” This phase involves the exchange of information between both parties regarding witnesses and evidence they plan to present during the trial. The purpose is to enable each side to obtain more information about the other party’s case.

Through the discovery process, both parties are expected to disclose their property ownership, debt, and income. This transparency helps ensure a fair division of marital assets during the divorce.

Consulting with an experienced attorney from The Manely Firm is crucial during this critical stage. We will guide you through the discovery process, utilize appropriate methods to uncover hidden assets and work diligently to ensure a just distribution of marital property in your divorce.

Penalties for Hiding Assets in a Georgia Divorce

Attempting to hide assets during a divorce can have serious consequences in Georgia. The court takes a firm stance against these deceptive actions to discourage individuals from defrauding their spouse or the court itself. Here are some potential penalties for hiding assets:

  • Financial Consequences: This can include repayment of the hidden assets or awarding a larger share of the marital assets to the innocent spouse.
  • Contempt of Court: Knowingly hiding assets can be considered contempt of court, which can result in fines, community service, or, in extreme cases, imprisonment. The severity of the penalty depends on the circumstances and the court’s discretion.
  • Impact on Credibility: When a party is caught hiding assets, their credibility is significantly compromised. The judge may view them as untrustworthy, which can have negative implications for their position in other aspects of the divorce proceedings.

Why You Need a Georgia Family Attorney in Cases Involving Hidden Assets

Dealing with hidden assets during a divorce can be complex, which is why having a trusted Georgia family attorney by your side is crucial. An experienced attorney from The Manely Firm can provide invaluable support through in-depth knowledge and experience in Georgia divorce cases, strategic legal representation, and proven negotiation and mediation skills.

We have the expertise to conduct comprehensive investigations, gather relevant financial documents, and work with forensic accountants if needed to identify any attempts at asset concealment. We will also skillfully present evidence of hidden assets to the court, advocating for your interests and seeking a fair resolution.

Don’t let hidden assets put your financial future at risk. Contact The Manely Firm, P.C. today to schedule a consultation with our Georgia family attorneys.