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Shell game: when unscrupulous spouses try to hide assets

Forbes divorce columnist Jeff Landers writes exclusively for women, that is, with a topical focus that slants in favor of divorcing females as opposed to their decoupling male partners.

In doing so, though, he frequently raises issues germane to family law topics in a manner that is generally instructive without regard to sex.

One somewhat dusted-off piece from his past Forbes posts serves as a particularly strong example of that, discussing subject matter that still commands strong relevance regardless of whether the party acting unethically or illegally in a marital dissolution is a husband or a wife.

Namely, that is a focus on illegal attempts by a divorcing spouse to hide marital wealth during divorce.

That is a no-no, of course. In fact, it is a flat taboo in every state of the country. Massachusetts’ property division scheme stresses an equitable distribution of marital assets, which is an instant impossibility in any divorce where assets are shielded from the scrutiny of one divorcing party.

The effect of unlawfully hiding assets can be comparatively outsized, of course, in marriages featuring a high degree of wealth. In high-asset divorces, the repercussions of shielding income and other wealth sources can be huge.

Landers makes two key points regarding attempts to unlawfully conceal wealth.

Here’s one: The types of assets involved are myriad and complex in many divorces, ranging widely from real and personal property to numerous kinds of investment and savings vehicles.

And here’s another: The machinations that an unscrupulous partner might engage in to hide wealth are equally myriad and, sometimes, disingenuous in the extreme. False tax returns are filed. Bogus loans are made. Company payments are disguised and/or deferred. Purchases are hidden. Cash is secreted away in foreign accounts and bank safe deposit boxes.

Landers strongly recommends that any person with suspicions regarding the financially related conduct of a divorcing spouse timely get “a qualified divorce team” on board to conduct a close investigation and attendant valuation of all marital assets.

A divorce attorney with a proven track record of representing clients in high-asset divorce matters — especially those involving property division considerations — can play a central role in the process.

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