Protect yourself by watching for signs of asset concealment

During divorce, and even during marriage, spouses hide assets from one another more often than many people would like to think. Asset concealment occurs for a variety of reasons, such as spite, selfishness and sometimes even a misguided sense of entitlement. Regardless of the reasons, however, asset concealment during divorce is against the law in Illinois.

Because asset concealment is far from uncommon, and can dramatically affect the outcome of a property settlement, spousal maintenance award or child support determination, it is important to be aware of some common red flags that could indicate your spouse is hiding money or other valuables from you. By being alert to the risk and taking steps to address the situation if you believe your spouse is hiding assets, you are protecting your long-term financial interests.

Common warning signs

If your soon-to-be-ex is trying to conceal assets from you, you may notice the following changes in his or her behavior:

  • Receiving bills and financial statements at an address outside the home. A spouse who has something to hide will often have financial correspondence sent to work or a P.O. box in order to keep it away from the other spouse.
  • Losing or deleting financial records or computer programs. Some asset-concealing spouses try to cover their tracks by claiming that the computer has crashed, or by deleting financial software like Quicken or QuickBooks.
  • Reporting unusual business changes. Small business owners sometimes use their own companies to hide money during divorce, for example by creating phony losses or inventing employees in order to obscure the true value of the business. Because small business owners may have numerous ways of manipulating their income during divorce, a detailed investigation by a forensic accountant may be warranted in such situations.
  • Being increasingly defensive or secretive about money. If your spouse suddenly seems more reluctant than usual to discuss financial matters, or if he or she is unwilling to share account information and passwords with you, it may be a sign that he or she has something to hide.
  • Complaining of a sudden reduction in salary. A dramatic change in salary, especially if it is not accompanied by a matching reduction in expenditures, could be a sign that your spouse is trying to keep his or her earnings "off the books" until after the divorce.

Just as there are many ways of hiding assets, there are also many more warning signs that could mean your spouse is concealing money or property from you in an effort to unfairly influence the outcome of your divorce settlement.

If you have concerns that your spouse is not being honest about financial matters, be sure to talk the situation over with your divorce lawyer. He or she can investigate the situation on your behalf and will take action as necessary to help you get everything you are entitled to in your divorce.