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.