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If you have been thinking about ending your marriage, you probably already know you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse must divide the marital estate. While some assets, such as your home and cars, are easy to identify, some may be more difficult to track down.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with allowing your spouse to handle financial matters during your marriage, your husband or wife should not take advantage of your trust. If your spouse tries to hide assets in the lead-up to your divorce, though, he or she may face three serious consequences.

1. Contempt of court

Even though your marriage seems like a personal matter, it actually represents a contract between you, your spouse and the state. Consequently, to end your marriage, you must file a lawsuit or respond to one. Either way, you and your spouse must disclose financial details to each other and to the court. If your spouse hides assets, an irritated judge may hold him or her in contempt of court.

2. Criminal charges

Even though it may be possible to hide assets without breaking any laws, your husband’s or wife’s conduct may meet the elements of fraud, forgery or another criminal offense. Put simply, if your spouse breaks state or federal law, prosecutors may file criminal charges.

3. Loss of the asset

In California, hiding assets before or during divorce proceedings does not usually end well for the deceptive spouse. In fact, the judge may award the hidden asset or its value to you. He or she may also require your spouse to pay legal fees and associated costs.

Because you probably know your spouse better than anyone else does, you may be able to gauge whether he or she is hiding assets. Still, the serious consequences of this type of dishonest behavior may dissuade your husband or wife from trying to gain an unfair, unethical and illegal advantage during your divorce.