As one of the top causes of divorce, financial stress can take many forms. Issues may revolve around a job loss, extraordinary expenses or simply different perspectives in whether to spend or to save.
However, many people agree on one thing: Hiding money or big purchases from a spouse is not only bad, but even worse than cheating on them physically or emotionally. According to a recent survey by Bankrate, 31 percent of survey respondents said that financial dishonesty in a relationship is worse than actual adultery.
What constitutes 'hiding' assets?
In its simplest form, hiding assets means one spouse makes purchases or opens accounts without their partner’s knowledge. Activities range anywhere from signing up for a credit or opening a separate checking account to moving investments into offshore accounts. A spouse might surreptitiously drain money from family accounts into separate accounts. Alternatively, he or she may use investment dividends or employee bonuses to open new accounts with which to build wealth on the side.
Signs that assets might be hidden
The point of hiding assets is to ensure they’re not found, but there are a few signs to watch out for, including:
- Unexplained payments or money transfers out of joint accounts
- Giving significant loans or large financial gifts to (their own) family members or close friends
- Buying expensive cars or luxury items “on a whim”
- Altering expense reports or other financial documents for a family-owned business
What you can do
Not everyone is financially savvy or likes to keep on top of the family budget. This is often the case in situations where hidden assets occur, where one spouse assumes control of budget and the other has limited knowledge about the family’s finances.
If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, however, the time to act is now. Make sure you have copies of your latest bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage payments and other bills. If you don’t know where these items are kept, do a thorough search of your filing cabinet and your house in general. You might turn up unexplained bank notices, stock certificates, and other evidence of accounts you don’t recognize. You can also search public records online to determine if your spouse is associated with any businesses, aliases, relatives or social media accounts you’re not aware of.
Most importantly, discuss your findings with a trusted family law attorney. He or she can advise you on your options for moving forward. This could mean engaging forensic accounting experts if necessary to help uncover the depth of this rabbit hole.