Minnesota Legal Blog

Hiding Marital Property is More Common Than You Think

by | Dec 1, 2016 | Family Law |

While wealthy people can be accused of hiding assets during a divorce, it is not uncommon among other couples as well.

People in Apple Valley may not give much thought to the idea that their spouse could be hiding marital property, but they should. Despite how amicable a divorce appears to be, the division of property is often a contentious issue that can generate lengthy court battles and underhanded tactics.

What is marital property?

Marital property is generally defined as anything worth monetary value, which was acquired during the course of a couple’s marriage. There are a few exceptions to the general rule for excluding non-marital property. Not all property owned by a spouse prior to a marriage is excluded, however. For instance, the court may award to either spouse the household goods and furniture of the parties, whether or not acquired during the marriage. Such items could include family heirlooms, antique furniture or valuable artwork.

How common is it to hide property?

According to a recent poll, hiding money is a common behavior among some couples. Fox Business states that people admitted to having a secret savings account or credit card. The poll consisted of over 1,000 people and those who revealed they had a hidden account amounted to 7 percent.

What are the signs that someone is hiding property?

Four years ago, Forbes reported that a Russian billionaire began buying expensive assets, including a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida; a football club in Monaco; and a New York, New York, apartment for $88 million. The apartment, the billionaire claimed, was for his daughter, but his estranged wife, who is in the process of divorcing him, claims that the purchases were made in an effort to hide marital property.

While the above scenario seems a bit surreal, the act of buying properties or expensive items when a marriage is falling apart can be a sign that the spouse is trying to hide property. In a separate piece, Forbes points out that spouses who are hiding property may act in suspicious ways that include the following:

  • Trying to get another spouse to sign a legal document without giving that person time to read it;
  • Struggling with a drug addiction or gambling debt;
  • Family members are ‘buying’ assets that belong to the couple;
  • Financial troubles for the family business suddenly appear;
  • Troubles with the job start occurring; and
  • Objecting to handing over access to financial accounts.

Another common red flag is the sudden deletion or crash of a financial accounting system. For example, if a spouse claims that he or she can’t turn over financial records because of a computer virus or some other technical issue, there is a good chance the spouse is hiding money that belongs to the couple.

Can hidden property be found?

If spouses act immediately, hidden property can usually be located and recovered. There are court orders spouses can request that freeze the assets until division can be completed. People may also find it helpful to discuss their concerns with an attorney.