Money is a major cause of arguments in a marriage and a reason the relationship may break down. It’s no wonder, then, that finances cause problems during divorce, as well.
While couples would ideally divide property on their own, divorces do not happen in ideal circumstances, and it’s often necessary for courts and lawyers to get involved.
Divorcing couples give financial disclosures, says divorce lawyer Marcus Morales of Morales Law in Santa Barbara. Generally, anything acquired during the marriage should be divided equally, unless it was an individual gift, inheritance, or something owned before marrying or after separating.
“The problem comes when people omit assets or income in their financial disclosures,” Morales says.
Here are six ways your spouse might hide money when you’re going through a divorce.
Claiming Personal Expenses as Business Expenses
If your spouse is self-employed, there’s a chance personal expenses could be claimed as business expenses, making the business appear less successful than it is in reality.
“We have seen people claim their business makes zero profit,” Morales says. “When we looked closer, the business owner was writing off his personal Maserati vehicle, maid that cleaned his house, vacations, every meal and trip to the grocery store as business expenses.”
A thorough investigation will uncover miscategorized expenses. “Personal expenses incorrectly written off as business expenses can be considered income for purposes of determining child support, spousal support and attorney fees in a divorce,” Morales says.
“It’s important to understand, especially for self-employed individuals and business owners, that tax returns are only the beginning of the analysis for determining income in a divorce,” Morales says.
A spouse may pretend to take out loans from family members, friends or imaginary third parties to make it look like they have less money than they do.
If you represent yourself in a divorce, you cannot subpoena your spouse’s finances without court permission. However, a divorce lawyer can subpoena bank statements and other financial records without court permission to verify whether your spouse is making loan payments and to verify if lenders exist.
Your spouse could put possessions like boats, cars, or houses in someone else’s name to hide them before or during divorce proceedings. The assumption is that those possessions will be returned after the divorce is finalized.
Bank records and depositions with the people involved can reveal whether your spouse transferred the assets and what kind of arrangement was made.
Prepaying for Expenses
Your spouse might make large purchases before filing for divorce, spending money that would otherwise be split, on expensive items or vacations.
This prepayment of expenses can be exposed through an examination of financial records to determine whether there has been a change in your spouse’s buying habits.
Your spouse can attempt to hide money by concealing it in cryptocurrency formats like bitcoin, a computer file that stores a digital record of money.
“When a spouse is paid for a service with cryptocurrency, they frequently will use a virtual wallet to hold the cryptocurrency, such as Coinbase or Kraken,” Morales says. “Subpoenaing records from these companies have helped us find hidden cryptocurrency, leading to money for our clients and sanctions against the hiding party.”
Finally, there is the trick of hiding cash, which keeps money unaccounted for in a divorce.
“We did have a case in the construction business where the owner of a construction business had $60,000 in a duffel bag that he did not disclose,” Morales says. “We were able to uncover the cash and get our client half the money.”
No matter how a spouse hides money, trained divorce and family law attorneys, such as at Morales Law, help clients get what they deserve. For more information about how a divorce attorney can help you, visit MySantaBarbaraLawyer.com.