What to Do if Your Spouse is Hiding Assets

Divorce and the dissolution of a marriage can be overwhelming — and it can be more stressful if your spouse is hiding assets. Unfortunately, a party will sometimes try to hide assets out of spite or because they don’t think their spouse should be entitled to them. Concealing assets during a dissolution or divorce proceeding is not only unlawful, but also unfair, as it can lead to an inequitable property division. If you believe your spouse has not disclosed all of their assets, income, or property as you are going through the divorce process, there are a number of remedies that may be available to you.


How are Assets Hidden in Divorce?

Ohio law follows the rule of equitable distribution when it comes to dividing property in a divorce or dissolution of marriage. This means that property must be divided in a way that the court deems fair and equitable to both spouses. To achieve an equitable outcome, each party is required to fully disclose their assets, debts, income, and expenses during the divorce process. Once all the assets and their values are known, the debts are determined, and income and expenses are ascertained, the parties and/or the court can make a fair division of the debts, assets, and income. Although financial disclosure is required under Ohio law, a dishonest spouse may sometimes take steps before and during a divorce to hide assets or income in order to prevent the spouse from receiving the fair share they are entitled to.

 Some of the most common ways a spouse can conceal assets in divorce can include:


  • Transferring money to someone who will return it after the divorce is finalized
  • Purchasing expensive items with the intent to sell them after the divorce
  • Not reporting cash income or hiding cash
  • Delaying promotions, bonuses, or receiving stock options
  • Misrepresenting assets as having less than their actual value
  • Overstating debts
  • Moving assets into offshore accounts
  • Prepaid rent, vehicle lease, or utility deposits

There can be many signs that your spouse is hiding assets during the divorce process. While hidden assets can sometimes be challenging to prove, you should pay attention to any changes in your spouse’s spending habits and keep an eye on how much is being allocated toward bills. Other clues can include payments that haven’t been received as scheduled and a sudden or unexplained loss of business income. Document any evidence you may have and be sure to bring it to your attorney’s attention.

Using the Discovery Process to Uncover Hidden Assets

Even if your spouse is hiding assets, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to locate them. In addition to the mandatory financial disclosure, you can request additional information during the discovery phase of divorce by subpoena and other discovery methods. Specifically, you can ask your spouse, using a request for production of documents, for copies of all tax returns, financial documents, banking records, paystubs, loan applications, and all other financial information that may be relevant. You may also make demands to inspect investment income or property kept in a safe deposit box.


Another discovery tool that can be used to obtain information are interrogatories. These are written questions that your spouse must answer in writing under oath. Not only can they verify known facts, but interrogatories can be used to ask questions and obtain answers. Another discovery device, called requests for admissions, can compel your spouse to admit whether certain statements are true and by so doing, expose financial discrepancies. Additionally, depositions can be conducted to learn new information pertinent to your spouse’s financial situation. While depositions are conducted orally under oath, a written transcript is created that can be helpful in preparing for trial or negotiating a settlement.


If your spouse refuses to cooperate with the discovery process and will not disclose assets, financial information can be obtained by issuing subpoenas. These documents are served directly upon the source of the information sought — such as a financial institution or an employer. Importantly, a subpoena can often result in more information being provided than just the documents that are available to your spouse.


In complex cases, it may be beneficial to hire a forensic accountant, who can work with your attorney to uncover evidence of hidden assets in order to ensure your marital property is fairly divided. A forensic accountant can analyze financial documents, examine real estate records, and closely scrutinize investment portfolios. Such an expert can also find the accurate value of assets and identify any inconsistencies concerning your spouse’s personal or business income.


What is the Penalty for Hiding Assets in Divorce?

A spouse who is hiding assets can face various consequences for their financial misconduct, including sanctions and civil penalties. Lying about one’s financial situation during divorce proceedings is perjury, which can result in being held in contempt of court. If your spouse willfully failed to disclose assets, you may be entitled to recover your attorney and financial expert fees from them.


Significantly, if you can demonstrate that your spouse was hiding assets, you might be eligible to receive a larger portion of the property distribution in your divorce. Under Ohio law, you may be entitled to a distributive award — or an award up to three times the value of the property that was not disclosed by your spouse, as provided in §3105.171(E)(5) of the Ohio Revised Code. .

Contact an Experienced Ohio Divorce and Dissolution Attorney

If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets during divorce proceedings, it’s crucial to have a skillful attorney by your side who can help ensure you receive your fair share of marital property. Located in Green, Ohio–halfway between Akron and Canton courthouses–Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC provides reliable representation for a broad scope of divorce and dissolution matters, including those involving hidden assets. Contact Melissa Graham-Hurd and Associates to schedule a consultation to learn how we can help.