Hidden assets are an unfortunate reality of many divorces

This article looks at how common hidden assets in divorce are, especially in light of new digital assets.

Marriage isn't just a romantic union, it is a legal and, in many ways, a financial one as well. Married spouses share property, assets, and debts and one spouse may earn the family's income while the other spouse agrees to delay a career in order to raise the children. As a result, dividing property is one of the most important steps to undertake during a divorce and the only way to ensure property can be divided fairly is by making sure each spouse knows how much the marital estate is actually worth. Unfortunately, in many divorces one spouse will try to conceal assets from the other spouse.

Uncovering hidden assets

As Forbes reports, hidden assets are an especially common problem in high-asset divorces and the person more likely to hide assets is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the wealthier spouse. Hiding assets is not only unethical, it is also in most cases illegal. That's because during a divorce both sides will need to complete a financial disclosure statement detailing all of their assets and debts. Once that is known, the process of negotiating a division of property can begin.

However, when one spouse does not completely disclose his or her assets, then any resulting division of property will be inherently unfair. Some of the most common methods of hiding assets during a divorce include maintaining off-shore accounts, taking cash jobs and not declaring them to the IRS, claiming personal expenses as business expenses, and so forth.

Hidden assets go digital

While hidden assets have long been a serious problem, the way people hide assets is changing. As the Daily Beast reports, cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, have become a popular place for duplicitous ex-spouses to hide some of their wealth. That's because cryptocurrencies are largely unregulated and it can be difficult to track down the owners of cryptocurrencies. Recent volatility in the cryptocurrency market has also made such cryptocurrencies much more mainstream and much more attractive to those who may not have previously been aware of them.

However, even if the way people hide assets has changed, that doesn't change the fact that the punishments for getting caught remain severe. Hiding assets is a form of fraud and can result in criminal penalties. While convictions may be rare, it is not uncommon for a judge in a divorce case to take punitive action against somebody hiding assets by rewarding those hidden assets almost entirely to the other party.

Help with finding assets

Finding assets that may have been concealed by a former spouse is a complicated process and one that will require professional assistance. Anybody who suspects a former spouse is hiding assets should talk to a divorce attorney right away. An experienced attorney can help clients work out what their legal options may be and how to go about negotiating a fair divorce settlement.