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Jeffrey A. Landers

Jeffrey A. Landers

Posted: March 10, 2011 12:20 PM

Is Your Husband Hiding Assets?

At the end of the day, divorce is mostly about the division of assets and liabilities.

That is not to say that there are not other, equally difficult issues to confront during divorce. Child custody and support, for one, is often an arduous and grueling experience. So are the negotiations for the amount and duration of alimony. But, dividing assets and liabilities during a divorce tends to bring out the absolute worst in people.

One dirty trick that is sometimes employed by people during divorce is hiding assets and/or income. This can be extremely easy to do when one spouse, typically the man, handles the finances and the other spouse, typically the woman, is unaware, uninvolved, uninformed and perhaps even uninterested in the details of the family finances. In our practice, we deal exclusively with women and we've found this to be true in many cases. It has nothing to do with her intelligence or education -- most of our clients are lawyers, doctors, MBAs, business owners, executives and other professionals.

The rationale for hiding assets and income can be anything from revenge for an infidelity, fear of not having enough money after the divorce, the desire to lower the value of a business or just good old-fashioned greed. Typically, the person hiding assets feel that they "earned" it and therefore shouldn't have to give any of it up. But regardless of the reason, hiding assets, income and debt is unethical, immoral, illegal and subject to severe penalties when discovered.

If you suspect that your soon-to-be ex-husband might be hiding assets, income and/or adding debt (real or fictitious) in order to lower or avoid paying child support and/or alimony payments, you should immediately become vigilant to protect what you might be rightfully entitled to.

Below are several tips for identifying whether your spouse may be hiding assets and/or income.

The take-away here is to make sure from the very beginning of your marriage that you are involved with and have full knowledge of all marital assets, liabilities, income and expenses. Know where all copies of tax returns and other financial records are located (many of these statements can now be uploaded on the internet for future use). If it's now too late for preventive measures and you're already in the throes of divorce, you may want to strategize your next financial steps with a divorce financial expert.

Gather as much information as you can, as soon as you can, and play detective
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Immediately start to gather documents such as tax returns (including any business returns); bank and brokerage statements; pension, IRA and 401K statements; as well as credit card statements and other loan statements. If you notice that bank and other financial statements are no longer coming to the home, it could be a sign that marital assets are being diverted or dissipated. I created a free Divorce Financial Checklist to assist you with this task.

Once you have gathered all of the documents, you can start playing detective by looking at past years' tax returns. It's a good bet that your husband is typical and somewhat fearful of the IRS and is unlikely to be dishonest on them. This should give you a good snapshot of your income for the past several years. Additionally, you should also carefully go through your brokerage statements to see if there have been any purchases or sale of securities. If you find that securities have been sold, you should be able to track the proceeds back to another account.

You can also easily go through past checking account statements for the last few years looking for purchases that you didn't know happened. Savings accounts could reveal deposits that might mean your husband could have an income producing asset that you didn't know about. Sometimes people will open bank accounts in their children's names with the intent of hiding cash. The interest on these accounts would not necessarily show up on tax returns because they might not have been filed for the children.
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Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA™ is a Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC (, a divorce financial strategy firm that exclusively works with women, who are going through, or might be going through, a financially complicated divorce. He also advises women business owners on what steps they can take now to "divorce-proof" their business in the event of a future divorce. He can be reached at

All articles/blog posts are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.


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