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Watch out for a spouse who gives away assets

When your spouse asks for a divorce, it may be a good time to take a look at your electronic bank statements. In particular, you want to watch out for any unusual financial activity. It could be that your spouse planned to ask for the divorce for a while and decided to act dishonestly in advance to hide assets.

Giving them away

For instance, one common way to hide assets is to give them away. To do this, your spouse needs to have a friend or family member who is also in on the scheme. That person receives the money or material assets. They may pretend that it is a gift, a loan or the repayment of a debt. It's not; that's just their excuse.

In reality, the plan that the two have is simple. After the divorce, once your marital assets have gotten divided between you and your ex, that's when the third party returns those assets to your ex. This skirts the property division process and makes it so that you lose out on some of the assets that you deserved.

For example, perhaps you and your spouse have $500,000 in your accounts. The court orders that you get 50% of the money. Prior to that, though, your spouse moves $100,000 out and gives it to a business partner as a fake loan.

This means that you only split up $400,000, giving you $200,000 total. Your spouse also gets $200,000 and it appears fair, but then the business partner gives the $100,000 back. Your spouse ends up with $300,000 and you lose approximately $50,000.

The scheme does not even have to be that complex; your spouse may count on you not noticing the transfers. In fact, one similar tactic that people use is to take the money that the couple has in a joint bank account and move some of it to a personal bank account. They don't even move it out of their own name. They just lie about its existence to avoid splitting it.

Is this legal?

In short, no, this is not legal. Your spouse may take drastic steps to make it appear legal and make all sorts of excuses when caught -- such as saying they didn't know they couldn't loan out their own money -- but it's essentially a type of financial fraud. Your spouse has to disclose all assets when you get divorced and cannot attempt to hide anything.

With that in mind, if you notice strange financial activity when you check those bank statements, make sure you know what legal options you have. It could indicate that your divorce case is about to get very complicated.

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