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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Divorce > What to do if a Spouse is Hiding Assets in Divorce

What to do if a Spouse is Hiding Assets in Divorce


Besides the emotional turmoil that can come so easily in a divorce, many also have to face significant financial consequences of divorce. Whether you are exiting a marriage with more or less than you entered into it with – the division of property in a divorce usually means that the divorcing parties will lose something that they hold as valuable. But what happens when one party tries to hide assets?

The Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner divorce is not the first case where the allegation of hiding assets has been thrown – but it is certainly a recent case that the media followed closely for many months. Ms. Baumgartner’s team levied allegations that Mr. Costner was attempting to hide certain financial information, to include his earnings for the show “Yellowstone.” Baumgartner’s team alleged that this was done in order to manipulate the formula for which spousal support and child support would be calculated. Mr. Costner’s team responded with various defenses and asserted there was no wrongdoing on their part.

In your own divorce case, how do you even begin to detect if your spouse may be hiding assets? What can you do to stop it? And what would the courts do if they found out about one spouse attempting to hide assets?

  1. Organize the Paperwork

Understanding what you have in front of you is always the first step. It is always wise to assemble key pieces of paperwork ahead of a divorce proceeding. These papers should include and establish a list of all assets and liabilities or debts.

Valuable paperwork includes (but is in no way limited to):

  • Paystubs
  • Lists of assets and liabilities
  • Records of income
  • Gifts or inheritances during the course of the marriage
  • Prior tax returns
  • Bank statements
  1. Keep a Watchful Eye

Be wary of new or suspicious activity on the part of your spouse. This might include:

  • Changes in Spending:
    Particularly notable are significant increases or decreases in spending.
  • Slow Drains:
    Fast, dramatic changes are not the only ones you should watch out for. Pay attention to even small, incremental diminishments of monies in your bank account. Slowly draining an account is often a less-obvious way to still end up with the money at the end of the day.
  • Note Behavioral Changes
    Even if you cannot put a finger on what exactly is wrong, if your spouse is acting strangely – such as refusing to allow you to see tax returns, or changing information to bank accounts, that is a red flag that something might be amiss.
  1. Penalties for Hiding Assets

The penalties for hiding marital assets in a divorce can not only include charges of perjury, it can result in the offending spouse losing their right to the hidden asset. As noted in prior articles, the consequences of hiding assets can be devastating.

  • The penalties under California law for “breach of fiduciary duty” can be severe and can include requiring the offender to provide a costly accounting, a change in title of discovered assets, and/or an award of 50% of the asset to the aggrieved spouse plus attorney’s fees.
  • In extreme situations, where one spouse can prove the offending spouse acted with “malice, oppression or fraud” in hiding assets, in some situations, a court could award 100% of the concealed asset or assets to the aggrieved spouse and mandatory attorney’s fees.
  • Criminal consequences are also possible, depending on the circumstances.


It is important to remember that the requirement to tell the truth to the court does not just apply when you are seated next to the judge, one hand raised like is shown on television. Throughout the course of your divorce, you might be required to submit a number of signed documents to the court. In these court-submitted filings you are attesting that you are telling the truth. Lying to the court on these documents can result in dire consequences.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young LLP

Hiding a marital asset in the midst of a divorce case can be a serious offense. If you have questions about your own circumstances, contact the esteemed San Francisco property division lawyers at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young LLP for more information.




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