You must disclose assets during a divorce. Intentionally hiding them is fraud. In order for the court to help split the assets between you and your spouse, everyone must know exactly what you control, down to the last penny.
That said, couples often are not honest when it comes to money. The National Endowment for Financial Education claims that two thirds of all marriages involve "secretive hidden funds."
Do you really know what assets your family holds? Or do you just let your spouse handle it, trusting that, as long as the bills get paid, you're doing fine? Many people take this hands-off approach, but it can turn disastrous when divorce strikes and you suddenly have no idea what to look for.
Below are a few ways that technology can help uncover hidden assets.
1. Financial transaction emails.
Your ex tries to send thousands of dollars to his or her brother. The goal is to stash the money out of sight and then transfer it back after the divorce. You ex says nothing about this, but uses PayPal or some similar cash transfer app to move the money. This generates an automated email to confirm the transfer. If your ex isn't careful, that email offers solid proof that the money got moved. Even if your ex deletes it, the email may sit in the trash folder.
2. Online transfers.
Online banking is very convenient. You can cash checks, move money around, pay bills and much more. For you, those statements also paint a clear picture of where the money is going. In the past, a spouse could stop by the bank, withdraw $1,000, and hope the other spouse never stopped in to check. People sometimes do this for months or years to slowly stash money aside. With online banking, you can log in and look at the transaction history in seconds.
3. GPS tracking.
Your cellphone often tracks where you go. With the right app, you may be able to get real-time updates about your spouse's whereabouts. If he or she claims to be staying late at the office and then really swings by the bank, that raises a lot of clear red flags.
4. Social media messages.
People don't talk on the phone like they used to. Today, a lot of communication gets done on social media. If your spouse is scheming with anyone else to hide money away, odds are good there are messages on platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Even cryptic messages that don't directly talk about money could give you reason to start digging.
Are hidden assets more common than you thought? Though every divorce is different, it's important to know the risks and the options you have.