During a divorce, both parties are legally required to disclose all of their assets to one another to ensure each understands their financial picture. Courts often use the parties’ reported income to calculate child and spousal support obligations and what they report as held assets to distribute property during divorce proceedings. However, people often break this law for fear of losing what they consider to be “theirs,” because they are afraid there will be an inequitable distribution of assets, to spite an ex-partner, or to conceal their net worth and influence support obligations.
If you believe your spouse fraudulently transferred money out of an account, underreported cash earnings, or lied about assets, you are not alone. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, an attorney from O’Connor Family Law can help you investigate any alleged financial fraud, negotiate a private settlement, and assert your rights in court. There are three steps you can take if you suspect your spouse is unlawfully hiding assets.
Before confronting your spouse about hidden assets, consider gathering evidence of financial mismanagement, unapproved transactions, or income/expense discrepancies. This evidence may include:
- Any available tax returns and documents, including W2s and 1099s
- Statements from joint bank accounts
- Photographs of unexplained assets such as motorcycles, jewelry, or gifts for shared children
- Affidavits (i.e. written and notarized statements) from family members, co-workers, or friends with relevant information
- Salary and withholdings from an employer
- Records of cash transactions
- Bills and other expenses, (i.e. utilities, tuition, mortgage, car payments, and insurance premiums)
Spouses may also request information about each other from employers and financial institutions. If you calculate your spouse’s general income and subtract known expenses, you may find a discrepancy indicating missing assets.
Retain Professional Help
If you discover evidence of unauthorized or hidden transactions, consider contacting independent legal counsel. An asset distribution attorney may team up with private investigators and accountants to help you trace missing assets, recover fraudulently transferred funds, and file for judicial protection. A lawyer also can work with opposing counsel to schedule property division negotiations.
We have conducted video-walk throughs of homes to ensure that records of valuable items are preserved during a divorce where the parties no longer reside in the same household. We have hired forensic accountants to review complex estate plans to find any ways a spouse may be attempting to hide assets. There are many creative ways to determine whether your spouse may be attempting to hide resources from you. Let that be our burden to find rather than yours.
File for Legal Protection
Because spouses often share rights to property, sometimes you must file a petition for divorce to protect yourself and your family. Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 208, §1A gives judges the authority to enter any order necessary to protect your property rights during divorce proceedings. Judicial decrees may include orders to freeze certain bank accounts, produce additional financial documents, remove one spouse from the home, or otherwise halt seemingly fraudulent transactions.
Additionally, Mass. Gen. Law Chap. 208, §12 and §13 permit courts to place a lien on your spouse’s known assets to ensure you receive any owed spousal maintenance, child support, and property. Additional penalties may apply to spouses (and co-conspirators) who fraudulently transfer property in violation of a court order or lie about their assets to influence support obligations.
Contact an Attorney if You Suspect Your Spouse is Hiding Assets during Divorce
Marriage creates complex personal and financial relationships in the Commonwealth. When you and your spouse share assets, protecting your property may require legal help or judicial intervention. If you suspect your spouse is hiding their assets or otherwise manipulated financial records while contemplating divorce, our team is here to help.