How to Protect Assets and Prevent Fraudulent Distributions / by Cassandra Hearn

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Financial issues can often be forefront in the minds of divorcing spouses. When parties have worked hard to build financial security and acquire assets, they are often concerned about what will happen to the assets during and after the divorce. California is a community property state, meaning that all marital assets will be equally divided at the time of the divorce trial. A vengeful or greedy spouse can turn a typical community property asset division into a complicated case where that spouse takes steps to attempt to hide or fraudulently distribute assets in an attempt to get a larger share of the assets once the divorce is over. Spouses should take some steps to protect themselves from these types of issues.

Protecting yourself starts before the divorce is even filed. You should take careful stock of what assets exist and where they are. This includes all types of assets, ranging from real estate to bank accounts. Gathering paper evidence of the existence and location of all of these assets is also crucial. If the assets are easily moveable, such as jewelry or cash, you should carefully catalogue these assets as well. This often includes taking careful photographs, often with a date stamp on the photograph showing the date the photograph was taken. Make sure that you keep a copy of the evidence somewhere other than inside your home. The safest place for these documents is typically stored electronically off-site and providing another copy to your lawyer. Making sure you know what assets exist at the time the divorce is filed will mean you are able to prove to the court if your spouse is not truthful about the existence of assets or what happened to them at the time of trial.

In some situations, it may be advisable to file your divorce sooner rather than later. When a divorce is filed and served in the state of California, there is an automatic temporary restraining order that comes into effect. This order prevents either party from taking particular types of financial actions, including dissipating marital assets. Notably, the order also keeps either party from giving assets to a friend “just to hold” or selling these assets, especially if it is sold for a nominal amount just to make it look like the asset was sold and not gifted. Whether it is time to file your divorce is an issue you should carefully discuss with your attorney.

If you have questions about your assets, rights, and responsibilities, contact us today at (619) 800-0384. We look forward to discussing these issues with you and helping you develop a plan to protect yourself.