When a marriage is clearly headed for divorce court, sometimes one or both spouses will resort to practices that are not strictly acceptable; some may even be unlawful. Hiding assets is one of the most common of these practices, but its commonality does not make it easier to spot. Some spouses are very successful at hiding assets with other people or in alternate accounts, but there are ways that you can discover such actions and obtain some manner of restitution.
Full Financial Disclosure Is Required
Illinois law demands both spouses provide a full accounting of all marital and non-marital property once divorce proceedings have begun. At the beginning, it can be easier for assets to be hidden, especially by the spouse that governs the household finances, but the discovery process, where both spouses must provide financial records and other documents, can make that much more difficult even if someone does not make a full disclosure. Forensic accountants can trace expenditures through transactions that can otherwise look innocent, and discovery is the time when it is easiest to pick up the proverbial trail.
If you do not have the ability to engage outside help, there are tricks more often used than others to hide assets, simply because they work. Some of them include “selling” or “willing” items to friends and family members seeming at random, purchasing items that are easily undervalued like artwork or vintage automobiles, changing passwords to financial accounts—sometimes even shared ones—and reporting lower amounts of income than are actually being received. All of these are, at the very least, ethical violations, as the financial disclosure each spouse must submit has the force of a statement under oath.
When He or She Gets Caught
If you are successful in catching your spouse in hiding assets, the court has multiple options in deciding how to handle such a matter. Generally, the outcome will depend on the specific nature of the alleged misuse. Illinois law does not permit any kind of punitive redistribution of assets; the relevant statute specifically says that assets will be divided equitably, “without regard to marital misconduct,” but sometimes a court will hold that the value of the hidden asset should be awarded to the spouse who was disadvantaged by its hiding. This is seen as an equitable remedy; if a person is deprived of tangible property, he or she may not be able to get that specific property back, but he or she can be awarded its fair market value.
In extreme cases, your spouse may be found in contempt of court, especially if a judge can determine that their conduct flouts or disrespects the court’s authority. This can lead to you being awarded attorney’s fees, or sometimes it will lead to a court ruling against the spouse in contempt with regard to the disposition of other assets. While the law does not permit you being awarded a greater share of the marital estate in response to a spouse hiding assets, there are numerous equitable remedies—those that make up for what you have lost as opposed to remedies that give you more than what you had—in such a situation.
Get Help Finding Hidden Assets
It can seem intimidating when you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets and you are uncertain how to find them. Having a good lawyer on your side can help you feel less alone. Our skilled DuPage County divorce attorneys can help you determine how best to approach what can be a time-consuming and exhausting process. Contact our office today to set up a free consultation.