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Hiding assets in divorce is illegal. Is your spouse doing it?

When you told your spouse you were filing a divorce petition in an Illinois court, you may have gotten the exact reaction you expected or one that caught you off-guard. Either way, you may also have explained that you simply wanted to do what was necessary to finalize documents, part ways as amicably as possible and move on in life. Perhaps, you knew that would likely not be the case when your spouse made comments about "leaving you with nothing" or "taking you for everything you have."

Hiding assets in divorce is not only a cold-hearted thing to do after being married for five, 10, 20 years or more, it also happens to be illegal. The judge overseeing your case isn't going to look favorably on someone who is trying to beat the system. If you suspect your spouse is doing things to prevent equitable distribution of marital property in your divorce, you'll want to arm yourself with as much evidence as possible and know where to seek support to help you investigate.

Signs that definitely warrant further investigation

Have you and your spouse always shared a jointly owned bank account during marriage? Since you announced your plans to file for divorce, have you noticed withdrawals from the account that you did not know about at the time? Siphoning money from a jointly owned account and hiding it elsewhere is a common way spouses hide assets in divorce. The following list includes other red flag issues that may be cause for concern:

  • Has your spouse recently opened a bank account for a minor-aged child? Since you must add the name of an adult to such an account, this is an easy way for your spouse to hide money to make deposits or withdrawals that you won't notice.
  • If your spouse owns a business and has supposedly hired new employees but you have not seen physical evidence of said employees, it could be part of a hidden asset scheme. Paying ghost employees on a payroll is a means of stashing cash.
  • Some spouses literally "stash cash" around the house to hide assets as well. Places to look might include strong boxes, closets, in between pages of books, attics, garages, etc.
  • Did your spouse recently give a lot of money to a relative or friend and claim that it was a loan or payback for a loan? Asking someone to hold onto money until the court finalizes a divorce is one of the most common means for hiding assets.

You can act on your suspicions by bringing your concerns to the court's attention; however, no judge is likely to simply take your word for it without evidence to support your claim. That's why it pays to gather information, documents and other facts that may help convince the court that a spouse is trying to gain the upper hand in property division proceedings by participating in illegal activity. A judge can hold a person in contempt for hiding assets in divorce.

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