Is Your Spouse Hiding Assets in the Divorce?

Fri 17th May, 2024 Family Law

Divorce can be both emotionally AND financially draining. While we may not be able to advise on the emotional consequences of divorce, any divorce attorney could tell you that actions you take early on to protect yourself matter. Divorce in California usually means that community property rules of division to property will apply. This means that divorcing partners should anticipate that they will lose access to a fair amount of property that they hold out to be valuable. While this is fair and expected, what about when one party suspects that their spouse is trying to hide assets so they will not have to split its value in the divorce?

A recent public example of one spouse calling the other into question over suspicions of hiding assets is the recently finalized divorce case between Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner.  Ms. Baumgartner’s team levied allegations that Mr. Costner had been attempting to hide key financial information, including the earnings he made from his role on the hit T.V. show “Yellowstone.” Baumgartner’s team suggested that the intent behind obscuring the information was an attempt to manipulate the child support and spousal support formulas he would be held to. Mr. Costner’s team presented defenses to the allegations and maintained that no offense was committed

The following aims to help everyday people understand some steps you can take to try and detect any attempts at hiding assets and what courts might do if they determine one spouse has attempted to hide assets. 

  1. Get Your Records in Order

You cannot know if something is amiss if you have no baseline understanding of what you have to begin with. It is always prudent to assemble important information and documentation ahead of any divorce proceeding so you know what you are looking at and generally can expect at the end of the day. This background paperwork should include and also establish a list of any and all assets, liabilities, and debts that you believe are subject to division in the course of a California divorce.

It is important to remember that while most property is subject to California’s community property rules of division, there are some exceptions to this. The terms of prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements, for example, might greatly alter what assets will be subject to division. An experienced divorce attorney can help you understand the nuances of your own situation. 

Valuable paperwork to gather and discuss with your attorney includes (but is not limited to):

  • Records of income: this might include paystubs and bills of sale
  • Lists of all liabilities and assets
  • Gifts and/or inheritances received during the course of the marriage
  • Records of tax returns
  • Bank statements
  1. Practice Vigilance

Keep an eye out for new or suspicious activity that could point to money being siphoned. This could include:

  • Spending changes:
    Has your spouse greatly increased the amount they’re spending month to month? What about significant decreases? Both can signify something that may be amiss.
  • Slow Drains:
    Slow, incremental diminishment is less likely to garner suspicion. Watch out for not only fast, dramatic changes but small, inexplicable changes as well. 
  • Note Behavioral Changes
    If something seems fishy, your instincts may be trying to tell you something. Be mindful of strange behavior from your spouse – such as refusing to let you read through the tax returns or changing the pins to bank accounts. Be aware of your financial footing. It is the best way to become aware if something is amiss.
  1. Potential Penalties for Hiding Assets

Penalties for hiding assets in a divorce can include the courts levying charges of perjury, fining the offending spouse, and the spouse losing rights in the property at issue. Serious offenses could even culminate into other criminal charges, such as fraud.

Contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler

Hiding marital assets can be a serious offense. If you suspect foul play in your own marriage or simply want to ensure you are approaching your divorce with your best foot forward, contact the esteemed Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler to speak with a seasoned divorce attorney.