When marriages end, negotiations can quickly turn sour and contentious — even when one or both spouses had hoped to part ways amicably with a minimum of conflict. In some cases, divorce proceedings can even take a criminal turn when one spouse tries to hide assets from the other, often in an attempt to influence the outcome of a property division, spousal support or child support determination.
California property division law
In California, the law provides that all property and other assets acquired by either spouse during a marriage is treated as “community property,” which means that it generally considered to be owned equally by both spouses regardless of who actually earned, purchased or otherwise obtained the property.
Upon divorce in California, community property is typically divided evenly between the spouses unless the spouses reach a different agreement outside of court, for instance during divorce negotiations or prior to marriage in the form of a prenuptial agreement.
In contrast, assets that were acquired outside of the marriage are typically regarded as separate property under California law, and in most cases are not subject to division during divorce. Thus, particularly in divorce cases involving substantial assets or complex property division issues, the stakes can be extremely high when it comes to differentiating between community property and separate property in California.
Asset concealment warning signs
Divorce cases are rarely cut and dried when it comes to matters of property division and spousal support, but the task becomes far more challenging when a spouse takes matters into his or her own hands by attempting to conceal assets. One of the best ways for divorcing spouses to protect their assets from concealment by a soon-to-be ex is simply to pay attention and watch for some common warning signs, which may include:
- Being unwilling to discuss financial matters or share account passwords.
- Opening multiple bank accounts.
- Complaining of unusual business difficulties, investment losses or other financial hardships.
- Taking on more debt than usual.
- Maintaining a lifestyle that does not seem to match his or her claimed income level or financial status.
In order to protect their long-term finances, people who suspect that a spouse may be trying to conceal property, money or other assets during a divorce in California should contact a reputable divorce lawyer right away for help understanding their rights and legal options.