Can My Spouse Hide Money During a Divorce?

Yes, your spouse can hide money during a divorce. However, that doesn’t mean they should as they can face serious consequences for such actions. In this blog, we will discuss how the state says assets should be treated during divorce, the consequences of concealing assets, and ways in which hidden assets can be found.  

How Assets Are Divided in Missouri  

In the state of Missouri, the division of these assets is governed by the principle of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean an equal 50-50 split but instead aims for a fair division based on several factors. These factors can include the duration of the marriage, the economic circumstances of each spouse, the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, and more. 

Missouri law mandates that the court determines whether each item of property is either "marital" or "non-marital". Non-marital, or separate property, includes assets that one spouse owned before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. These assets typically remain with the original owner after a divorce. 

Note that the court also considers instances of marital misconduct, such as the dissipation of assets, when making decisions about property division. This means if one spouse has been wasteful or reckless with marital property, it could impact the division outcome. 

Why Might Someone Hide Assets During Divorce?  

During a divorce proceeding, some individuals may attempt to hide assets to protect their wealth or to avoid a fair distribution of assets. Common reasons include

  • Financial control. Some individuals seek to maintain control over their financial resources. 

  • Retaliation. A spouse may feel wronged and hide assets out of spite or revenge. 

  • Deception. Some individuals simply believe they can get away with it. 

Concealing Assets During a Divorce Is Illegal  

Hiding assets in a divorce proceeding is a deceptive practice that some individuals may resort to protect their wealth from division. Missouri law calls for an equitable distribution of marital property, and intentionally hiding assets disrupts this process. Attempting to hide assets during divorce proceedings is not only unethical, but it is also illegal.  

Hiding assets often takes place when one spouse intentionally misrepresents or omits information about their financial circumstances to the court and their spouse. However, asset hiding can take many forms. These include:  

  • transferring ownership of assets to friends or family members,  

  • creating fake debts,  

  • overpaying taxes or credit cards to get a refund after the divorce,  

  • buying expensive items and undervaluing them, or even  

  • creating false documents to support these actions. 

It is important to note that money (i.e. substantial amounts of cash is not the only asset that can be hidden. A spouse can hide several types of assets, including but not limited to: 

  • Bank accounts, such as undisclosed checking, savings, or business accounts. 

  • Investments, such as unreported stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or retirement accounts. 

  • Real estate, such as properties bought without the other spouse's knowledge. 

  • Offshore assets, such as money stored in foreign bank accounts. 

Consequences of Hiding Assets in a Divorce  

If the court discovers that a spouse has hidden assets, the consequences can be severe. For example, the court may order the dishonest spouse to pay fines or cover the other spouse’s legal costs. In more extreme cases, the court may award a larger portion of the marital assets to the other spouse as a punitive measure. 

Moreover, the court may put restraints on certain properties or assets to prevent further dissipation. This could include real estate properties, vehicles, and other significant assets. 

Above all, lying about assets in a divorce case can be considered perjury, which is a serious criminal offense. It involves making false statements under oath during a legal proceeding, and it can lead to penalties such as fines, imprisonment, or both. 

How to Uncover Concealed Assets  

If you believe that your spouse has hidden assets, you should inform your attorney. They along with a forensic accountant, private investigator, or another professional, can help you take steps to uncover hidden assets. Some strategies to uncover hidden assets include:  

  • Reviewing financial documents. You can scrutinize tax returns, bank statements, and credit reports for inconsistencies or suspicious transactions. 

  • Using forensic accounting. Forensic accountants are skilled in investigating financial discrepancies and can be instrumental in tracing hidden assets. 

  • Filing a subpoena for records. If you suspect your client's spouse is hiding assets, you can subpoena financial records from banks, brokerage firms, and businesses. 

  • Interviewing potential witnesses. Friends, family members, or business associates may have information about hidden assets. 

If you discover hidden assets, there are several legal remedies available to ensure you have a chance for equitable distribution, including: 

  • Contempt of court. If a spouse is found to have deliberately hidden assets, they can be held in contempt of court. 

  • Asset redistribution. The court may award a larger share of the marital assets to the wronged spouse. Even if your divorce has been finalized once you discover hidden assets, you can file an appeal or post-judgment modification motion to try and obtain your rightful share of marital assets. 

  • Monetary sanctions. As we mentioned, the court may order the spouse who hid assets to pay attorney fees or other costs related to discovering the hidden assets. 

Get Legal Counsel  

At Kallen Law Firm, LLC, our attorneys are equipped to help clients with the asset division process and have experience handling high-asset cases. If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, we can also help you file for modification. With nearly 50 years of combined legal experience, you can trust our legal team with your case.  

To discuss your case with our attorneys, call (314) 441-7793 and schedule an initial consultation today.