When couples separate, they must come to an agreement on how they should divide their assets before anything goes wrong. But some clients aren’t aware of all the properties their former partners had. Or, in other cases, a client doesn’t trust their ex-spouse and suspects that their ex could be hiding some assets from them.
During divorce proceedings, it’s not uncommon for a party to fail to disclose or even deliberately hide assets. Here are some examples of hiding assets in divorce or family law matters:
- By not disclosing their assets properly, including superannuation entitlements
- By hiding cash earned from businesses
- By deliberately wasting assets through excessive spending or mismanagement of a business
- By increasing debts or selling assets
- By utilising Family Trusts to protect and hide assets
So why do people hide assets during divorce?
More often than not, only one party manages the couple’s finances. The other party is unaware of the couple’s joint financial matters or the individual assets owned by their partner. It isn’t an issue until they separate and file for a divorce. The party who manages the couple’s joint assets or has individual assets may try to maximise what they can get out of their property settlement by keeping such assets separate or hidden.
How can I tell if my ex is hiding cash or assets?
If you’re going through a divorce, here are some signs that the other party is hiding assets:
- Bank and other financial mails are no longer being delivered to your place or email address. Check with your bank to ensure you have copies of recent financial statements if you notice a change in what you’re receiving in the mail.
- Your partner may have given up a lot of their salary, or they might be waiting to receive their bonus money and extra commissions until after the divorce.
- There have been several reports of overpayments to accounts from which they can get the money back at a later date. For example, your partner may overpay on taxes. They may do this out of the expectation that they can get a refund later, but, in the meantime, the amount they have spent on their tax won’t be included in any asset pool. Likewise, they may lend money to their family members, knowing that those people will return the money after the divorce. They may also transfer money to your children’s bank accounts.
- Your partner’s business is not seeing any new clients but is buying new machines and spending on other unnecessary expenditures.
- You have recently discovered that your spouse is often secretive about their finances. It could be a sign that they are transferring or dissolving assets.
How can lawyers help when your partner is hiding assets?
Family law or divorce lawyers usually ask clients to speak with their bank. If they’ve seen a pattern or sign of any unusual transaction activity, they should contact the bank right away so that the situation can be handled accordingly. After that, the lawyers can help put a restriction in place and try to close certain bank accounts.
Divorce lawyers also conduct Company and Land Title searches to obtain information about entities or properties owned by the parties. All discovered assets will be considered in property settlement or division. It is vital to disclose relevant documentation in their possession or control. When a party refuses or fails to do so, the lawyers can issue subpoenas to financial institutions.
Lawyers can obtain evidence from witnesses or other sources. If Family Trusts are involved, your divorce attorney can help find out the names of the beneficiaries and people who control the trust. They can also contact your partner’s superannuation fund to get relevant information.
What are the consequences of hiding your assets?
If the lawyers can prove that your partner has been hiding or failing to disclose their assets properly, the court may punish them by:
- Compelling them to pay fines
- Determining that they’re not a credible witness in their case
- Dismissing part of their case
- Awarding some costs against them, causing them to pay some of your legal fees
- If the court proves that one party has hidden significant assets, it may award the other party a greater share of the asset pool.
What if you found out about the hidden assets after the divorce? You can talk to your lawyer to take your case back to court and try to amend the property settlement and get a greater share of the asset division. But like any other legal matter, this is on a case-to-case basis. So it’s best to consult a family attorney or divorce lawyer who can guide you through complex processes.