Hidden assets can impact both the property division and the award of support payments. Assets hidden by one spouse deprive the other spouse of a share of them. If the hidden assets include income-producing assets such as a business venture or an investment portfolio, the spouse receiving support may receive a lesser amount of support than he or she is entitled to.
Some of the most common personal and business assets hidden during a family law case include:
- Offshore bank accounts – Bank accounts can be hidden no matter where they are established. Overseas bank accounts are often easier to hide, and more difficult for a spouse to access even if they are discovered.
- Real estate that does not produce income – Rental real estate is easier to find because it often creates tax paperwork. Real estate that is not rented may not create a tax paper trail, so it will be harder to find.
- Collectibles, including antiques, jewelry, coins, and artwork – These are many times portable, and therefore easy to move and hide.
- Rare livestock, including animals such as thoroughbred horses – While these may be a bit more difficult to hide because of their size and the care required, the true value of them may be easily concealed.
- Assets transferred or sold to related parties and entities – Friends, family, and business associates may take possession of valuable assets while a divorce is pending. Cash, business interests, investments, stocks, and bonds are some of the more common items that may be given to related parties for safekeeping during the family law case.
Spouses should make comprehensive lists of all assets they believe are owned at the time of divorce. Making those lists early is critical, so there is time to investigate the status of each of those assets.