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Warning signs of a hidden asset problem

When you decided to go your separate ways, no matter how long you've been married, you likely understood that your decision would prompt changes in your life. Divorce often has a significant impact on finances, and if you have children, you no doubt want to make sure that you have all you need to provide for them.

Since Maryland, like most states, operates under equitable property regulations in divorce, it doesn't guarantee that the judge will split your marital assets 50/50. However, all family law judges must be fair when they determine who gets what and who will be responsible for debt that accrued during marriage. What if your spouse tries to hide assets?

How can you tell?

Hiding assets in divorce is not only mean-spirited, it's illegal. However, many people try to beat the system and gain the upper hand in property division proceedings by stashing cash or lying about the value of the assets they possess. The following list includes possible issues that should definitely raise concern, especially if your spouse is acting defensive when you try to discuss finances:

  • Is there money missing from a jointly owned account? If so, you may want to inquire about it.
  • Does your spouse own assets you know about but is denying the existence thereof? Such denial is a common way that people try to keep assets out of property division proceedings.
  • False debt is another common asset-hiding tactic. For instance, did your spouse recently claim to paying back a loan when he or she gave a lot of money to a relative or friend?
  • Overpaying on a credit card balance or income tax form may be a red alert that your spouse is hiding assets.
  • Understating the value of a recently purchased luxury item may mean that your spouse doesn't want you or the court to know its true value.

On one hand, it's a good idea to develop your own financial identity when you divorce. On the other, if your spouse is filtering money into an account he or she recently opened for your minor age kids or is otherwise acting suspiciously regarding finances, it might not be independence he or she is seeking, per se; rather, it might be an effort to conceal property or assets.

How to handle such problems

Arguing typically doesn't resolve financial problems. In fact, many people say that fighting about money is a main factor that caused them to divorce. You do have a right, however, to request a fully itemized list of all property or assets in your spouse's possession.

Most Maryland judges will come down hard on people who try to pull the wool over their eyes. To protect your rights, your children's best interests and to ensure you get all you're entitled to in divorce, you may want to do all you can to stop a hidden asset problem in its tracks. Many people have been able to resolve such problems by seeking legal support to help them gather evidence and present it to the court.

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