California is a community property state, which means all assets and property that either party accumulates during marriage (barring gifts and inheritances) is considered to be equally shared among both spouses.
When spouses divorce, the total value of the marriage’s community property is supposed to be evenly divided. If one spouse attempts to hide property in an attempt to walk away with more of it than they should, the court could impose sanctions or order a property division that accounts for what’s “missing.”
Make no mistake: A spouse who is hiding community property from another spouse is effectively stealing from them. This is why it’s important to understand some of the most common ways that people hide money when they anticipate a divorce or are in the midst of one. Here are four to familiarize you with what could be going on:
1. Anomalies on Financial Statements
The easiest way to discern if your soon-to-be ex-spouse is trying to covertly squirrel away assets in anticipation of divorce is if your bank statements have unexplained anomalies. Obvious signs of untoward activity include cash withdrawals you don’t know about or transfers to accounts you don’t recognize.
You should also look for what you can’t see. By this, we mean that if you are having difficulty logging into an online bank account that’s worked many times before, it could be evidence that your spouse is trying to hide financial activity from you. The same can be said if you’re used to getting statements mailed or emailed to you on a monthly basis – if these suddenly stop when your marriage starts to sour, it could be a warning sign that your spouse is doing something he or she doesn’t want you to notice.
2. High-Value Items in the Home Go Missing
If you and your spouse have fine art, jewelry, electronics, or other items that held significant value, their inexplicable disappearance could be a sign that your spouse is stealing from your marriage. These items may have already been pawned for cash or sold online using a secret bank account. Likewise, however, they could still be in the other spouse’s possession but in a secret location where they can be accessed and sold after prodding into the spouse’s financial affairs ceases.
3. A Spouse’s Income Suddenly Decreases
When people anticipate a divorce, they might try to defer their salary or hold bonuses and commissions for future payment. If you’re aware that your spouse is pulling in less income and nothing about his or her job has changed, it could be a sign that they’re trying to preserve their wealth for life after the divorce.
As a reminder, any income – including bonuses and commissions – earned during marriage is considered community property. Deferring payments until a later date doesn’t circumvent the fact that the money was earned during marriage and subject to equal property division.
4. Your Spouse Is ‘Loaning’ Money to Friends and Relatives
Another obvious way your spouse could be fleecing your marriage’s community property for his or her benefit is if personal loans are being given to friends and relatives. Put simply, these may not be loans at all but merely asset disbursements to people your spouse trusts to give him or her the money back as soon as the divorce is final.
Even if these disbursements are legitimate loans, your spouse may intend to collect only after your divorce is finalized. This shorts you out of your half of the community property that was given as a loan.
Are You Concerned about Hidden Assets During Your Divorce?
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, our attorneys are experienced when it comes to knowing how to uncover hidden assets in a divorce. If you suspect your spouse has been stealing from your marriage for his or her benefit after the divorce is final, reach out to us for legal assistance. We may be able to help you get your fair share in a property division ruling, even if your spouse has attempted to shuffle money away for themselves.