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Hiding assets is more common than you think

It has long been acknowledged that money fights are one of the top causes of divorce, especially when salaries between spouses are unequal. The results of a recent poll by CreditCards.com  affirm this fact, finding that over 31 percent of poll respondents equate financial dishonesty to physical infidelity.

The irony here is that the poll also found that 23 percent of respondents admitted to hiding financial assets from their partner, such as a credit card (or credit cards), a checking account, or a secret savings or investment account. Moreover, while 85 percent of respondents claimed they were always honest about their finances with their partners, 77 percent didn't give their partners the same benefit of the doubt. 

Signs to watch out for

People hide financial information from their partners for several reasons, not all of them nefarious. Obviously, the most common reasons are to hide an extramarital affair or fraudulent business dealings, but a person could also simply be ashamed of their financial instability or a hobby their spouse finds frivolous. In these more mild cases, family and financial counseling can go a long way to repair the trust in the relationship.

That said, while it would be nice to assume positive intent on the part of a financially secretive partner, the reality is that in most cases, hidden assets are not meant to be found. Some of the tell-tale signs that assets might be going underground include:

  • Inexplicably transferring money from joint accounts to individual accounts
  • Lending or transferring large sums of money to friends or their own family members
  • Making big-ticket luxury purchases like cars, artwork, antiques or expensive jewelry out of the blue
  • Fudging expense reports for a family-owned business or sole proprietorship

All of these tactics work to reduce the amount of shared assets the couple may be required to split in the event of a divorce.

What to do if you suspect your spouse is hiding assets

As we discussed in a post last fall, there are steps you can take if you suspect your partner is hiding assets from you. It’s also worth discussing your suspicions with an attorney, who can work with appropriate financial forensic experts if necessary to uncover the truth of your marital finances. You are entitled to a fair share of all assets brought into the marriage in a divorce, whether you knew about them or not.

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