Red Flags That Your Spouse May Be Planning To Cheat You In a Divorce!

Experienced divorce lawyers and forensic CPAs know a few things about suspicious conduct that might escape your attention as it is unfolding, given that the essence of intimate relationships is trust. Family law professionals aren't blinded by stories that consist of promises and pillow-talk, because we don't have an investment in believing that your marriage is working, for the sake of children, conditioning and habit, or even fear of rocking the boat. Possibly this lends us a level of clarity that just isn't reasonably obvious to you.

At the same time, paranoia is a relationship killer. We want your relationship to work out and for you to be happy; we just don't have the same vested interest in believing that this must be so, and we are here to aid you if it isn't.

There are a ton of red flags that separately, or together, might give a clue that something is about to radically change in your life. This is particularly common where one spouse controls the parties' finances and investments. So many women (and men) that I've represented over the years never saw "it" coming, or knew how to react to protect themselves promptly once the evidence became undeniable (and before being served with a Summons and Petition) - except possibly when the question involved intimate betrayal, as opposed to financial betrayal. We know you are sensitive to the former. Sometimes, if you sense the former (lying behavior with regard to intimacy), you need to take the next logical step and consider the latter (that a plan to cheat you of assets, or a set-up to claim reduced income for purposes of child or spousal support, is brewing).

After all, spouses who commit fraud tend to be clumsy - they aren't smooth operators or professional thieves, they are selfish, often narcissistic fools, and they leave a trail. Possibly that all becomes evident much, much later but here are a few things to watch out for if some sixth sense is screaming warnings.

After 30 years of practicing divorce and family law, I see patterns everywhere. No, not in terms of schizophrenic hallucinations or flash backs to a Grateful Dead concert from the early '70s. After representing many hundreds of people, themes relating to their marital experiences repeat. In my opinion, these are much more likely to be perceived by a divorce attorney in their adult prime, rather than a 'youngster' attorney. Age and experience does bear a relation to wisdom.

Here is a short-list (hah!) of signs that might mean something for your circumstances. And they might not. Taken separately they may be hard to decipher, so watch for patterns. At a minimum they may warn you about personality hardwiring that may ripen into something untoward in the near future. Unfortunately, perhaps, women tend to become more focused on the indicia of intimacy betrayal, rather than financial betrayal. At the same time, suspicion can become as much an addiction as any form of obsessive thinking, so grasp whatever balances you can so that you don't create the very monster you fear!

Have you noticed any of the following?

  • A spouse involved with drugs
  • Gambling behaviors where money disappears, especially when these accompany regular ATM withdrawals or credit lines with casinos (Indian gaming is a great place to hide cash, because the Indians aren't going to be giving up any customer records - ever)
  • Hoarding cash
  • Safe deposit boxes that you don't share access to
  • Secrecy or anger about your questions concerning financial issues, and a highly emotional reaction to innocent questions that once were discussed freely
  • Complaints about how poor business has been, when that is not what you perceive to be happening
  • A new found interest in password protections for emails, financial programs like Quicken or Quick-books
  • A sudden need for multiple bank accounts, especially when you are not a co-signor
  • Refusals or discouragements that block your access to family or business financial advisors, like book keepers and tax consultants
  • Statement that imply your lack of value or participation
  • Signing tax returns "for you", or "look over there, its a rabbit!" types of deflections when you want to look at Schedule C's or other parts of your tax returns
  • Removing trusted advisors and replacing them with new faces, like the family CPA being replaced by some stranger to you
  • Seemingly obsessive work hours, and periods where you just don't know where she or he is
  • Requests that you sign off on titles to property, or that you add your spouse to separate property "in joint tenancy" 'just in case someone dies'
  • Loan applications and refinances that don't seem necessary or sensible
  • Undisclosed credit cards
  • Intercepting mail, or the sudden use of post office boxes
  • Apparent gestures of generosity that also have the effect of getting you out of the picture
  • An unusual need for money infusions, and the assumption of new debt to fund family expenses or the community business
  • Trips out of town for "business purposes" that never were previously important or required
  • Complaints and tears about sudden business downturns or losses, especially when things otherwise seem normal
  • Large cash transactions, whether business or personal
  • The creation of bank accounts that you don't need to be a co-signor on
  • A new found interest in expensive toys, whether cars or jewelry
  • Your spouse tells you what good deals he is making in trading his services (income) for those of others, especially his buddies, in lieu of receiving regular payments
  • Comments that suggest you contribute nothing to the overall economic equation
  • Descriptions of the family business as "mine", and reminders how hard he or she works
  • Seemingly odd comments about business "goodwill," and why no one else could ever run the family business without him or her
  • Requests that you sign off on retirement plans, or waive rights of survivorship
  • Sudden emergencies, where you need to sign some document you don't understand
  • Irritated statements like "Damn it, just trust me!"
  • Complaints about how his buddy got screwed in his divorce
  • Questionable and risky business investments with "others"
  • A spouse who is quick to out of proportion anger when you ask a simple question about finances
  • More than one cell phone

These are but a few of the things you may encounter that imply the relationship is going south, and that your beloved friend may be way ahead of you in the land of relationship-end, and has already broken the bonds of trust and so is becoming capable of acting without shame or guilt and in accord with a plan. Some form of indignant rage often precedes these breaches, so watch for it.

If you notice more than three of these points surfacing in your day-to-day affairs, especially where they represent a change from what you'd expect and have come to know, it couldn't hurt you to have a discreet consultation with a family law attorney - but denial is hard to overcome, and we arrive at our next phase when we get there!

Thurman W. Arnold, CFLS