One of the ways that a Pennsylvania spouse ends up shortchanged during the divorce is when their spouse hides assets during the settlement process. As a result, one must be vigilant to make sure that they are receiving the full picture when their spouse declares assets.
Spouses will hide assets because they want to keep more for themselves outside of the settlement agreement. They have several tricks that they commonly use to accomplish this. Frequent means of asset hiding are transferring the property to a third party, undervaluing the asset, making up fictitious debt or simply denying that the asset exists. Either way, they are acting fraudulently, and their behavior can have harsh consequences if it is not discovered and addressed.
Spouses must not accept anything at face value when they receive information about the assets that the spouse believes are part of the marital estate. First, they should use common sense and their own knowledge as a first check on whether the information is correct. Second, they should use things such as a previous tax return or financial statements to make sure they are receiving accurate information. There may be clues about hidden assets or other income sources in the attached schedules to the tax return. They should also do a physical search for documents that could reveal the existence of hidden assets.
It is not always easy to follow the money trail when one spouse is engaging in deceptive conduct. A spouse will often need the help of a property division attorney to make document requests and forensically track down the assets. This will often involve court hearings and arguments in front of the judge. If the court does discover that one spouse is hiding assets, they will likely punish them harshly in the property division proceedings.