10 Easy Ways to Hide Assets From Your Spouse

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Financial infidelity and lies are all too common in marriages. One in three people admitted to financial infidelity against their partner, according to a January poll for the National Endowment for Financial Education. And that's just the ones who admitted it. So can you imagine the deception that can occur during a divorce?

Unfortunately, I don't have to imagine. As a divorce financial planner who often works with the "out spouse" –- the term for the partner in a marriage who was never plugged in to the finances, managed the cash flow, paid the bills or had relationships with the CPA, financial adviser, or attorney. I've seen financial deception firsthand as the more savvy and informed "in spouse" tries to cover up cash, hide investments and fabricate expenses and debts.

If you are considering a divorce or in the middle of one –- especially if you are the out spouse -– you need to look for for financial deception because it can dramatically affect the assets you obtain and the marital and child support you receive. Although failing to fully and truthfully disclose all assets and liabilities is a crime, don't count on that to deter your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

The best way to catch a criminal is to think like a criminal. So, to help you get into the mind of a soon-to-be ex with their mind on taking you to the cleaners, here are 10 ways I could hide assets and income from my spouse in a divorce:

1. Transfer assets to a separate account. This is simple and common. Here I would take money from our joint bank and brokerage accounts and transfer them to an account only in my name. Fraudulent? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

2. Transfer assets to a friend. In a joint bank or brokerage account, both parties have full control over the assets.
I could systematically transfer cash and/or investments to a buddy's account, and then once the divorce is finalized, he or she could transfer it back to an account in only my name. The advantage in transferring the assets to a friend is that when I am legally obligated to report marital assets, these transferred assets are not technically part of our marital property.

3. Overpay the Internal Revenue Service. With a little planning, this is a terrific way to shield assets; and if caught, it's easy to play the "aw shucks, I totally forgot about this" card. If I knew I was going to file for divorce next year, I could instruct the IRS to use this year's refund for next year's tax. Once the divorce is final, I'd have a fat overpayment with the IRS that I could use against future tax.

4. Take cash withdrawals on debit cards. This one starts with "Honey, I'm going to the store" and ends with "Yes, I would" when asked if I want cash back. Although I probably won't get rich, given enough time I could amass a decent stockpile of cash by taking $60 or $80 every time I am at the grocery. The beauty is that the cash goes under the radar because the total charge shows as groceries.

5. Turn down promotions and raises. If I am friendly with the boss, I would tell him or of my forthcoming divorce and ask that they delay any promotions and set any raises/bonuses aside until after it was finalized.

6. Accrue commissions. If I closed a big deal and was anticipating a large commission payment, I would let my employer know that I wanted to delay receipt for ... tax purposes.

7. Forget about employer retirement accounts or stock options. Memory is the first thing to go with age. How could I be blamed for forgetting about a defined benefit plan, ESOP or stock options I own through my employer? I mean, they hardly ever send statements.

The above tactics are child's play compared to strategies available when you own your own business.

8. Not invoice clients. It wouldn't be difficult to delay invoicing clients until after the divorce. Although accounts receivables would be accrued assets, this is easier to hide than cold hard cash.

9. Create fake expenses. "Yes dear, I'd love to give you more money but my business is struggling ..." thanks to the fact that I've created fake expenses, pre-paid vendors, added my cousins to payroll and started paying friends for their "consulting" expertise.

10. Go on a shopping spree. Have you seen the new $100,000 piece of art in my office? Well you would. I'd buy all kinds of personal items and charge exotic vacations to my company, which would quickly soak up any profit that could be divided in the divorce.

I need a shower after dreaming up this list. People hiding assets in a divorce is a real and pervasive problem, but those who do it can only get away with it if their spouse stays in the dark. So if you are the out spouse, it's time to get more plugged into your finances. If you are going through a divorce, don't accept your soon-to-be ex's financial disclosures at face value. Do some digging, and get your attorney and divorce financial adviser involved. If there are significant assets or a company, hire a forensic accountant.

One last thing: If you are disgusted by my criminal ideas and worried for my spouse, don't be. She's a certified fraud examiner. If I surreptitiously tossed a coin in a fountain, she'd discover it before it hit the water.

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Susan Ernest

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February 10 2015 at 9:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Throw Away

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February 05 2015 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

its funny how my husband (soon to be ex) had enough money to qualify on a loan for a second home two hours away from our beach home. I moved into this second home to escape my husbands craziness and mental abuse. I should have known better. Just two months later he is giving me $75.00 to live on for two weeks citing he cant afford two households. As if he was suddenly thrown into this second house by surprise with his arm twisted back behind his back. He always has to be the victim. I was married twenty years to this kind of behavior. He is a auto dealership manager and been in the car business 47 years. He is a master manipulator that's for sure. I've been looking for work. He calls me up daily and harrasses me and saying im a loser and lazy. When he was off work three years ago after getting fired from an 12 yr old job with LEXUS, I never talked to him that way and it took him 8 months to find any job and he has a network of people that I do not have living in a new city. I spent 3,000 the first month here in my new home but I had to move myself and pay help to help me and a uhaul truck. I had to get new services like TV and water, lights,phone. And buy a washer and dryer(used) and fridge. I think I did a great job that first month spending so little. He gave my good furniture away so I have a ratty ole couch. while he sits on my beautiful couch I bought and paid for myself with money when my father passed away, Don't you think he's playing games? you dont go from making 14-15,000.00 a month to 3500. He is hiding OUR money!

December 01 2014 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Best advice on this subject= If one sees a divorce coming start stashing CASH away in a safe place where only you know its location and NEVER tell anyone about it, not even a family member. And never put it in the bank or other account, it leaves a paper trail. After the divorce, DO NOT start spending money freely, the court can come back and ask where all the money is coming from. Act like you are destitute. Think!!! After the divorce, DO NOT run right back into another bad marriage!!! Have a significant other BUT do not get married!!!!!!!!!!!

November 25 2014 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joy Philip

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August 25 2014 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nguyen Van Faulk

This is really good advice! I employed almost all of these against my ex-wife thanks to you. Fortunately for me she's not a fraud examiner, lol. I always told her that her finding personal finance "super boring" was eventually going to hurt her. Super lol! She got what she deserved.

May 24 2014 at 10:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply