In anticipation of a
divorce, it is not uncommon for spouses to begin moving money, transferring and
hiding assets – all with the goal of depriving their spouse of their
fair share under California’s divorce laws. If you suspect your
spouse of hiding assets, it’s unsettling for sure, but the bigger
question is, are you powerless?
California is a community property state, which means both spouses have
a 50 percent interest in the marital estate. The marital estate generally
includes all income and assets acquired during the marriage. Separate
property is not subject to division and it usually includes assets acquired
before the marriage, and gifts and inheritances acquired before or during
the marriage in their name alone.
Moving Assets in Anticipation of Divorce
It’s not unusual for a spouse to give away or transfer assets in
anticipation of a divorce. For example, Jennifer can “loan”
her friend Annie $10,000 for college, and she can give her mother another
$10,000 to help pay her uninsured medical expenses. But after the divorce
is final, suddenly Annie pays Jennifer back and Jennifer’s mother
returns the $10,000 after she cashes her tax refund.
If your spouse has recently given or loaned out large sums of money and
this conduct is unusual, and you did not condone it, there is a good chance
that he or she is moving assets in anticipation of a divorce.
If you strongly believe this was your spouse’s motive, the court
may have the same point of view. If the behavior and timing were suspicious,
the court may conclude that the moves were made in an attempt to keep
money out of the marital estate and out of your pocket.
You Do Have Legal Recourse
If you suspect your spouse is hiding marital assets or trying to keep them
out of your hands, contact our San Diego divorce law firm right away.
You do have legal tools available, but you want to act quickly. If you
have a good reason to believe that your spouse is hiding assets, we can
ask the judge to freeze certain assets.
However, in California, once a divorce is filed, an automatic restraining
order goes into effect, which prevents couples from transferring marital
assets without the other spouse’s express consent. Of course, a
reasonable request to pay for normal everyday expenses, such as the mortgage,
childcare, etc. will be entertained by the court.
If a court finds that a spouse did, in fact, waste the marital assets by
giving them away, loaning them out, or otherwise making them inaccessible,
the court can award a greater portion of the marital estate to the innocent
spouse so the difference is made up.
Divorce When You’re the ‘Out Spouse’