Are you financially aware of your family's assets and finances? Do you keep track of your accounts and credit card statements? Does what you spend and save correspond to the income you have coming in?
If a divorce is on the horizon for you, the best gift you can give yourself is to be familiar with your finances. Probably your major concern is how can you afford to live if you do divorce or how will your family survive after a divorce has happened. If you don't know where to begin, see a lawyer and a financial advisor who has divorce financial planning experience. Then become familiar with your family's financial picture. These professionals will help you.
I most often hear the allegation that my client suspects hidden assets when he/she is not aware of family finances. Many times assets are not being hidden. The spouse just doesn't understand the family financial picture. However, sometimes the client's suspicions are well founded.
What are the signs you should be looking for?
In equitable distribution states such as Michigan, generally a client is entitled to receive roughly half of the assets and debts that the parties accumulated during the marriage. If you don't know what those assets are, you may lose the opportunity to share in them. The best defense against your spouse hiding assets is being proactive in your family's finances. Know what you own. Know what you owe and why. If possible, start with discussing your concerns about not "being in the loop" regarding family finances with your spouse. Point out that should anything happen to him/her, you need to know these things to protect the family. Your spouse's reaction to your request will be very telling in whether there are hidden assets. Remember that you have a right to know what marital assets/debts you have. Don't allow your spouse to convince you otherwise.
When you meet with your attorney and/or financial professional, have copies of your statements. If your spouse is secretive or possessive about these documents, you may need to obtain the copies over time. Even if you find old account statements, make copies of them. They may lead to current accounts. As you make the copies, arrange to store them somewhere outside the home. Do not put store them in your car. Ask a relative or friend to store them for you until you can meet with your attorney.
Financial advisors, estate planner and divorce lawyers will tell you that both clients should be active in managing family finances. It's not just to protect you in case of divorce. However, in cases where spouses are planning for their future or their families' future, such as when they engage in financial planning or estate planning, the couple is working together and the chances of full disclosure are far greater than when the couple is at odds with each other during a divorce. Your best defense against missing hidden assets is awareness of what you have accumulated.