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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Is your spouse acting defensive about money before divorce?

When you decided to divorce, you no doubt understood that you would have to resolve certain issues with your spouse in order to achieve a fair settlement. To accomplish such goals, you and your spouse must agree to fully disclose your asset and liability information. The problem is that things don't always work out as you'd hoped. In fact, many California spouses have tried to hide assets, which is not only mean-spirited if the goal is to obtain a fair settlement, it's illegal.

If you suspect your spouse isn't being forthright regarding finances, property or other issues, it's a good idea to further investigate the situation. For instance, if you are certain there was money in an account that you and your spouse jointly own, and you notice a withdrawal you were not aware your spouse was making, it's worth asking him or her about it.

These issues warrant concern

Perhaps, you're trying to think the best of the person you've been married to for 10 or more years. You want to part ways in as swift and amicable a fashion and get on with your life. It's difficult to do this if you feel you can't trust your spouse. Other California spouses have had similar problems. The following list includes numerous issues that often reveal hidden asset problems:

  • Just as you'll want to clarify missing money from a jointly owned bank account, it's also a good idea to ask about any minor accounts that your children might have with your spouse's name on them. People often hide assets in divorce by moving money in and out of these types of accounts.
  • Some spouses literally hide cash when they don't want their ex to get it in divorce. If you find a pile of money in a drawer or you learn that your spouse has opened a safety deposit box, it definitely warrants inquiry.
  • Has your spouse been spending money, perhaps purchasing artwork or other luxury items? A spouse who wants to hide assets might do this, then understate the value of the asset when it comes time for full disclosure.
  • Another common means of hiding assets in divorce is to give money to a friend. Your spouse might tell you that he or she is paying back a loan or lending the other person money, when the real purpose is that the person has agreed to hold the money until after you finalize your divorce.

When you ask your spouse about a concerning financial issue, does he or she become angry or defensive? This might be a sign that you have a hidden asset problem on your hands.

California is a community property state

When you settle a divorce in this state, the court operates under community property rules, which typically means splitting marital property between spouses 50/50. If you think your spouse is trying to keep from getting what you're entitled to, you can bring the matter to the court's attention. A family court judge can hold a person in contempt if there is evidence to prove such allegations.

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