Divorcing spouses in Pennsylvania almost always choose – or are compelled to – split their property. Unless people already have a written agreement concerning asset and debt division, they generally need to negotiate once they decide to file for divorce. Those who cannot resolve disagreements about property division outside of court rely on a family law judge to settle their differences.
Judges overseeing litigated divorces use the state’s equitable distribution rules to split both assets and debts between spouses. Both spouses need to disclose their resources to the courts and to one another, but not everyone fully complies with that requirement. Some people intentionally try to hide assets to unfairly alter the outcome of divorce proceedings.
In secret accounts
Although spouses should share their income with one another, they can still open a bank account without informing their partner. One spouse might then divert funds into that hidden financial account with no intention of informing the other spouse of its existence. Sometimes, people even have arrangements for a portion of their paycheck to automatically transfer into an account that their spouse doesn’t know exists. They may have hidden a portion of their income for the duration of the marriage in some cases.
In storage units or deposit boxes
Some people don’t want to move financial resources because they know a forensic accountant could track any transfers they make. Instead, they seek to move valuable physical property out of the marital home before they start creating an inventory of assets. People may hide jewelry, fine arts, furniture and other valuable possessions away from the marital home in the hopes that their spouse will not remember those assets and notice their omission.
In someone else’s home
Some people will not bother to rent a storage unit or a safety deposit box at a bank. Instead, they may simply move some of their belongings to the home of someone they know and trust. They might claim that they gave those assets to someone else or sold them while actually intending to regain control and possession of them after the divorce.
There are countless ways for one spouse to hide assets and manipulate the divorce process in their favor. Those with significant resources or a particularly vindictive spouse may need the help of not only of an attorney but possibly also financial professionals, like forensic accountants, to track down hidden assets and hold their spouse accountable. Locating hidden assets is the first step toward demanding a fair property division outcome in far too many Pennsylvania divorces.