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How do I find my spouse’s hidden money during divorce?

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It is extremely common for divorcing couples to think about, and sometimes even implement, hiding assets they don’t want their spouse to get their hands on during divorce. In order for a financial order to be legally binding, both parties must be honest about everything they own to ensure a fair settlement is reached. To that end, there is a rule in family proceedings that has to be followed: the duty of full and frank disclosure. But how do you know this has happened, and what can you do to find a spouse’s hidden assets? This article looks at all this and more.

Common ways to hide assets in a divorce

In order to find your spouse’s hidden money, it is essential to understand how and where they might hide it. A spouse may try to hide assets during a divorce by:

  • Moving money to a different account. For example, an undisclosed savings account
  • Temporarily transferring money to family members or friends
  • Making up non-existent debts
  • Creating false invoices
  • Undervaluing or under-representing business interests
  • Undervaluing assets
  • Claiming valuable assets is held on behalf of someone else
  • Not disclosing investments in digital wallets or other accounts, e.g. cryptocurrency
  • Setting up new trusts
  • Transferring money to offshore accounts
  • Buying expensive assets that retain their value
  • Deferring bonuses till after the divorce settlement
  • Regularly withdrawing case from bank accounts
  • Failing to disclose old pensions

Although some of these actions, such as offshore accounts, don’t always show someone is deliberately hiding money or assets during a divorce, they can flag that something is not quite right, and is definitely worth investigating.

When it comes to hiding assets, the problem with all of these approaches is that there are always ways for the other party to find out about them. It is rare for someone to deal entirely in cash and have the ability to stash it in bags under the bed. These days, there is always an electronic trail that can be followed. So even if your spouse has only included their main bank account within their financial disclosure, for example, you may be able to see regular cash withdrawals, or transfers to other undisclosed accounts that may give a hint that something is being omitted.

Ways to find hidden assets during divorce

In the lead up to a separation, you may find your ex become secretive about finances, and whilst this doesn’t always point towards hiding money, it is a good indication that you may need to stay alert. For example, they may change the log-in details to your joint account or are defensive about talking to you about money. Alternatively, you may notice unusual transactions, such as money being transferred between accounts or changes to the usual expenditure.

This could be a sign that your ex is attempting to hide assets in order to avoid having to disclose them in divorce proceedings. Here are our tips to find hidden assets if you suspect foul play:

  • Check bank statements – if you have access to them, look at your shared bank statements and other financial documentation, such as mortgage statements. You may notice expenditure on items which don’t lose their value, such as jewellery, or transfers to an unfamiliar account. If you notice anything unusual, make a note of it and tell your solicitor.
  • Read your ex’s financial disclosure – it is worth spending time painstakingly going through the 28-page Form E to see if you can pinpoint any discrepancies. If you see something out of the ordinary, you should flag this to your solicitor.
  • Use what you already know – often, there is an imbalance between couples, with one person having more control or visibility over finances than the other. You should take steps to get a good overview of your joint finances and use what you know to assess whether you feel your ex is attempting to hide assets, or whether their lifestyle does not accurately reflect their declared income. For example, you may be aware that your ex had invested in shares or that they have a PayPal account they haven’t disclosed. Alternatively, you may notice changes to their spending habits; perhaps they have started gambling or spending large sums on extravagant items. If you notice anything out of character, you must speak up, because there are actions you can take to prove your ex is attempting to hide money or deceive the court.

How can I prove my ex is hiding assets in a divorce?

There are legal ways of uncovering hidden assets during a divorce. These are:

  • Raising a questionnaire – this involves submitting a series of questions to your ex asking them to provide detailed information about their financial position. It can include questions about bank accounts, income sources, property ownership, business interests, investments, debts, gifts, liabilities, expenses, trusts, and digital assets.
  • Form of authority – this is written permission from one party to another to access specific information or records such as bank statements, property ownership records, digital platforms or accounts, employment records, or tax information. The only issue is that your ex does not have to give this permission, and neither can they be forced to do so without a court order.
  • Specific disclosure order – this is issued by the court and asks the other party to provide detailed information about specific parts of their financial situation. If they fail to comply with the order, the court can impose fines or, in extreme cases, a prison sentence.
  • Non-party disclosures – this involves obtaining information from individuals or organisations not directly involved in the divorce. It can be used to request bank statements from joint accounts, employer records, business, records, property records, tax records and trust documents.
  • Freezing orders – this is issued by a court when there is reasonable belief that a third party is about to dispose of assets. The order prevents the individual from doing this until a financial decision is made.
  • Anton Pillar order – also known as a civil search warrant, it allows a party to enter the premises of another, look for and seize relevant evidence without prior notice.
  • Avoidance of disposition order – this is a court order that prevents the disposal of assets when there is a reasonable suspicion that someone is trying to deprive another party of those assets or move them out of the court’s jurisdiction.
  • Forensic accountants – this can be a highly effective way of uncovering hidden assets in a divorce. These professionals are extremely experienced in financial investigations and are particularly useful when it comes to analysing complex financial structures where assets may be hidden.

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