Atlanta, GA- A marriage is about love, loyalty and trust, or at least it should be, however in the middle of a divorce, or sometimes prior many spouses, especially wealthier ones, will do anything to keep more of their assets and money to themselves and away from their estranged spouses once their marriage has broken down. Not only is this unethical, it is also illegal, so what are the consequences of hiding these assets and how can a spouse track them down.

According to a National Endowment for Financial Education study, reported by Forbes, 31 percent of respondents said they hid assets, purchases and debts from their spouses. An additional 34 percent said they lied to their spouse about their finances. Furthermore, more women than men are likely to accuse their spouse of lying about money.

When a couple files for a contested and sometimes uncontested divorce they are required to sign a Financial Affidavit. It is a statement of their financial assets which includes property, stock options, income and expenses. Signing this affidavit means the divorcing parties, under the penalty of perjury, is telling the truth.

Perjury is a serious offense and although each state handles this offense differently, it can lead to a conviction and ensuing legal ramifications. But it will most likely lead to a financial penalty, the very thing the offender was trying to avoid in the first place. A judge can order the spouse to pay attorney and other divorce-related fees or have their claims dismissed, Forbes reported.

In states that have community property laws, where the spousal assets are divided 50/50 between the spouses, the judge instead could award all the assets to the spouse who didn’t file a false financial affidavit.

There are a number of ways a spouse can hide assets and these trails can be hard to follow.

One common way is to establish a LLC or other type and purchase assets, like property, through this company. Assets can also be hidden through family members, business associates and friends by having them pose as “straw” purchasers. Or a spouse can keep many purchases secret.

Spouses, who are business owners, can also hide assets by paying a non-existent employees or failing to record business receipts. Business expenses can be overestimated in an effort to hide money.

It’s crucial if one spouse suspects the other of hiding assets they have a team of accomplished divorce attorneys working on their case. Most attorneys can discover these hidden assets, but people can be very clever and come up with unique ways to hide their assets.

But if the spouse has a lot of business savvy it may take a financial expert to track these purchases down. There is growing need for companies that specialize in tracking down undisclosed assets, and their expertise can be used to help an attorney back up their claim. With a top notch team of financial investigators and divorce lawyers an estranged spouse can get the settlement they deserve.