Spouses May Hide Assets During Property Distribution in Divorce

The division of property can be a highly contested issue in divorce. It may lead one or both of the spouses to engage in prohibited or unethical behavior in order to enhance their share of the assets.

Many spouses who are anticipating a divorce may begin hiding assets to provide a reserve for the costs of the divorce process, as well as to keep certain assets from being divided during the divorce. A recent article highlights the reasons as to why this is often a poor decision and how to identify assets that a soon-to-be-former spouse may have attempted to hide. Since many records have gone digital, a spouse often leaves behind an electronic trail that makes it easier to track down hidden accounts. Retaining an attorney who is adept at uncovering such assets can be crucial, as well. Additionally, the increased use of smartphones has made it more difficult for spouses to hide assets or information from each other.

Georgia, like the majority of states, applies the equitable distribution method to property division in the event of divorce. Under this method, the assets belonging to a married couple are classified as separate property or marital property. Separate property consists of assets that are brought into a marriage by one spouse, inherited by one spouse or given to one spouse during the marriage. This property belongs to that spouse and is not subject to distribution between the parties. On the other hand, marital property is any asset that is acquired by the couple during the course of the marriage. These assets are subject to distribution between the spouses. Such distribution of marital property does not have to be exactly equal; it just needs to be fair based on the circumstances.

The equitable distribution of assets that are acquired during a marriage is one of the reasons explaining why some individuals attempt to hide assets from their spouses. The fewer assets that are identified as marital property means that there are fewer assets to divide between the spouses; meanwhile, the spouse hiding the assets would be able to keep and obtain a larger share of marital property than to which he or she would otherwise be entitled. It is therefore important that a spouse going through a divorce conduct due diligence in identifying all assets owned by the parties.

Source: Huffington Post, "Uncovering Hidden Assets in Divorce Litigation," David Centeno, Aug. 15, 2014

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