Many people have secrets from their spouses, ranging from the trivial to the earth-shattering. A surprising number of people hide financial information during their marriages. However, once divorce becomes a real possibility, a spouse who hides assets can cause significant harm to the other spouse if he or she is not caught in time.
Learning some common red flags can alert you to suspicious behavior and help you locate hidden funds before they go beyond your - or a U.S. court's reach.
Denying access to information
The top thing you can do to protect yourself is to stay informed about family finances. This is true even if you are not the breadwinner or do not handle bills and paperwork. A spouse's reluctance to provide access to bank accounts, insurance policies and other financial records can mean there is something he or she does not want you to find. Other warning signs include changing the passwords without telling you or providing a different address or a post office box for paper statements. Generally, any attempt to conceal information should serve as a sign that you need the information in question as soon as possible.
Claiming reduced income but spending as usual
Income from independent contracting, freelancing or running a business can be easier to hide than a regular salary, especially if some of it comes in cash. In such a case, a spouse who is squirreling away income may claim reduced profits or increased business expenses to explain why he or she is bringing home less. When such a statement does not come with a corresponding drive to reduce expenses, there is a possibility the spouse is misrepresenting the situation.
Demanding you sign documents you have not read
You probably already know not to sign a document you have not read or understood. While this can be more difficult when your spouse asks you to just trust him or her, pressuring you to sign something you do not know the contents of is one of the top red flags for financial misconduct.
If you learn your spouse is hiding assets, getting proof can help you get legal recourse. Hiding assets may constitute a breach of the fiduciary duty one spouse owes another in California.