Not surprisingly, assets are often hidden in a divorce situation. Why? Well, simply greed, feelings of betrayal or anger at the need to divide assets in divorce, or the fear of not having enough after divorce all motivate the behavior of hiding assets.

In divorce, the assets of the parties are divided. Under the divorce laws of some states they are divided equally and under the divorce laws of other states they are divided “evenly” or justly. Fairly often means equally to overworked divorce judges.

There is no way to know in advance if your spouse has or will hide assets in a divorce. You know your spouse better than your divorce lawyer, and you should alert your lawyer to the possibility of your spouse hiding assets. However, before you get to that point, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent your spouse from being able to hide assets. Those steps include finding out as much as you can about your assets before the divorce.

Before alerting your spouse that you are considering a divorce, you should collect and/or store documentation of all your assets. If you don’t know about your marital assets, it’s time to find out what is. If bank and other statements arrive at the house, open them and write down the account numbers and balances.

If you have access to the canceled checks, copy those as well. It is not unusual for a spouse who is planning a divorce to transfer money to friends or family members with the plan that they will pay that money back after the divorce is final. Therefore, he must review those records and carefully analyze all large or suspicious transfers that take place in the two to three years before or after the divorce is filed.

Make sure you know where the copies of your income tax returns are. If your spouse owns a business, make sure you have a copy of multiple years’ tax returns for that business. All these documents can be safely copied and hidden somewhere outside the house in case you need them. Taking these simple preventative steps can mean all the difference in getting a fair settlement in your divorce. It will also be incredibly helpful for your divorce lawyer to have this information up front.

If bank and other account statements and financial records are not kept at home or mailed, you will need to obtain those records in other ways. You can contact the IRS to get copies of any tax returns you have signed. Request copies of those statements and ask them to mail them to a different address, either to a friend or relative or to your divorce attorney. If there are returns that you have not signed, such as business tax records, you will not be able to get copies of those returns from the IRS. If you have access to your spouse’s workplace, you may be able to find those tax returns there. If you’re worried about your spouse hiding assets in a divorce, you really need to find those statements and make copies of them, for as many years as possible.

If you have valuables, antiques, jewelry, art, or other collectibles in your home, catalog them all and if you have appraisals, make copies. It’s not unusual for such items to go missing or even be pawned by a spouse in need of more funds.

If you suspect that your spouse has been involved in a divorce scheme and is hiding assets, let your divorce lawyer know. Ask your divorce lawyer to order the records of any other person or entity that may be involved in helping your spouse hide that property. If necessary, your attorney can use the services of an investigator to help obtain financial records that have been withheld.