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How to deal with a spouse hiding assets during a divorce

A recent criminal case involving a University of Minnesota professor shows how far some people will go to deceive their exes during a divorce. According to The Star Tribune, a jury found the professor guilty of one count of attempted theft by swindle and two counts of aggravated forgery.

The criminal case alleged that he forged financial documents from one of his retirement accounts and left out critical information on another retirement account statement. In doing so, the professor grossly misrepresented his assets to hide money. This deception could have resulted in a loss of $353,649 for his former wife during the divorce.

Though this case represents an extreme example, it is not unheard of for a spouse to try to hide assets during a divorce. Commentators state that is occurs more often than most people think. If you are suspicious, here are some ways to protect yourself from being taken advantage of by your ex during a divorce.

Request full financial statements

As happened in the case above, it is possible to change financial statements or provide incomplete financial statements. If your partner tries to hand over one-page statements, this may mean indicate an attempt to hide some money. Certainly, if you have access to these accounts, you should pull financial statements on your own. You could also request that your partner allow you to view the transactions on these statements by having him or her log into the site in your presence. However, if your divorce is particularly contentious, this may not be possible. You may need to get an attorney involved to pursue proper documentation.

Review your joint tax return

Your tax return should reveal a more complete picture of financial assets. Again, you will need to see a copy of the entire tax return to ensure you are aware of all income and financial assets. If your spouse is only providing a few pages of the return, he or she may be trying to hide something. You can also request a copy of your tax return from the local IRS tax office.

Keep an eye out for large new purchases

A new car is a pretty obvious new purchase. Your ex may buy less obvious, but equally expensive items like antique furniture or art. These items could be undervalued during the divorce, so this may be an attempt to hide potentially valuable assets in plain sight.

Watch out for stock transfers

Your former partner could temporarily transfer stock ownership to other family members or business partners, who could then transfer ownership back after the divorce is final. If you know your ex owns stock, be suspicious if he or she “sells” it off during a divorce.

Check for a PayPal account

Putting money in an online account, like PayPal, is a great way to hide assets because all the transactions occur online. You can check the browsing history on shared computers to look for these types of accounts.

Cash may be hidden in your home or a safety deposit box

Many people take out cash and hide it in a physical location. It could be in your home or even in a safe deposit box. If you suspect your spouse may have hidden actual cash, look around your home first. Check file cabinets, bookshelves or other places that may seem like a good hiding spot.

If you find nothing but you still think your ex may be hiding assets, you and your attorney may consider employing a forensic accountant or a certified divorce financial analyst.

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