During divorce, California aims to fairly divide marital assets between spouses. However, this can be quickly derailed if one spouse illegally conceals assets from the other. Typically, one family member has greater control and knowledge of the finances than the other. They can use this to their advantage, transferring funds, spending down excess cash and giving their friends or family valuable assets to hold on to until after the divorce.

Hiding assets is most common in high-asset divorces, where individuals have more to gain or lose in property division. How can an individual protect their right to a fair settlement?

Learn about your family’s finances

Before you officially file for divorce, you should understand the extent of your family’s assets and debts. Ask your spouse for old tax returns and income statements. You should also feel confident that you have access to all bank accounts, investments and knowledge of retirement accounts.

The more you know, the harder it is for them to conceal large assets. Unfortunately, they may have strategically starting concealing assets long before you look into your family’s financial state, making this process much more difficult.

Look at your spouse’s social media accounts

If you are separated, you may not regularly see your spouse, or know what they are doing. Watch their social media accounts for photos of new cars, boats, jewelry, watches or artwork. This could show that they are trying to conceal available assets in physical purchases. All of these items should be disclosed during property division and included in the settlement.

Work with a forensic accountant

While you may not feel qualified to analyze complex financial statements and investment strategies, there are professionals who are. Consider working with a forensic accountant who can thoroughly analyze your family’s financial position, and identify warning signs of concealed assets. While this may seem like a lot of extra time and work, it could help you secure a much more favorable, and fair, property division settlement.