a safe box, family law

If one spouse is attempting to hide assets prior to or during a divorce, the other spouse can use a legal tool known as “discovery” to prove the attempted deception and uncover the hidden assets.

Assets are categorized in several different ways. Marital assets are those acquired during the marriage. Non-marital or personal assets are those that were obtained by individuals before the marriage, after the spouses separated, or by one of the two parties through inheritance or gift. Commingled assets are when marital property and non-marital assets become mixed together, like in a bank account. This can result in converting non-marital assets into marital assets. A Chicago family law attorney can explain how Illinois courts characterize property in a divorce.

Proving hidden assets through discovery

Hidden assets are often placed under the names of other people or within falsified documents. Uncovering hidden assets and unreported income is difficult and should be done by an experienced professional who knows the best methods of conducting all areas of discovery work. It may require interviewing people, depositions, and subpoenas. If this first level of discovery does not reveal the hidden assets, it may be necessary to thoroughly investigate and trace all property transfers to other people or entities. Discovery can be very costly and a divorcing spouse must weigh whether the cost of the investigation is worth the possible value of the suspected hidden assets. A family law attorney familiar with the case can provide advice on the best course of action.

Hiding assets is illegal

Hiding assets during a divorce is not only unethical, it is also illegal. The discovery process is a legal instrument that may involve requests for documents and depositions. If a spouse refuses to cooperate with the discovery process, he or she can be held in contempt of court. Illinois divorce courts base their decisions on the statements and evidence provided by the divorcing parties. Falsifying documents or lying under oath can result in perjury charges. Despite the problems, it can cause and the potential consequences, many people still attempt to hide assets.

Signs a spouse may be hiding assets

Divorcing spouses will sometimes defer their salary or ask employers to hold commissions and bonuses for later distribution. Spouses may overpay loans and other debts knowing they will later receive a refund. A spouse who suddenly becomes secretive about money or changes the regular delivery of mail from banks and other financial institutions could be diverting marital assets.