Divorce attorneys have probably heard every trick in the book when it comes to couples trying to hide assets during a split. Sometimes, the ideas that seem the simplest are actually surprisingly effective. In the age of digital banking and online records, many spouses might overlook the possibility of their ex simply hiding large amounts of cash in a safety deposit box. Does this strategy really work? What are some ways around this blatantly obvious loophole?

Where Does the Cash Come From?

Even if the spouse manages to hide the cash, it has to come from somewhere. Unless they have been planning a divorce for years in advance, there should be a record of these cash withdrawals in the months leading up to the divorce, right? Well, spouses can actually get around this obstacle with a few easy tactics. First of all, they could simply get cash back on everyday purchases and stockpile the cash in a safety deposit box or safe. 

Things become even more tricky if the spouses kept a safe prior to the divorce. Let’s say one spouse had $50,000 stashed away in a safe in the bedroom. After the separation gets nasty, one spouse could simply access the safe, take the money, and then deny the money was ever there in the first place. Unlike your local bank, a safety deposit box does not make records of who accessed the money and when. The sneaky spouse could then take that money and put it in their own safety deposit box without telling anyone. 

Finally, a spouse could simply cash an inheritance check without ever telling anyone, stash the money in a secret safety deposit box, and no one would be the wiser.

The Elephant in the Room

Of course, questions are immediately raised if any couple has tens of thousands of dollars stashed in their home. The immediate assumption is that one spouse is involved in criminal activities, and this is usually a correct assumption. A spouse engaged in criminal activities will obviously try to hide their profits, and they will not disclose these assets during a divorce. 

While one spouse may be aware of these assets, they should never disclose this fact – at least not without legal counsel. Accepting proceeds from criminal activities in any way is a crime, even in a divorce. Spouses may also incriminate themselves if they admit they were aware of this “dirty money.” In this situation, it might be a better idea to simply let the criminal spouse deal with these assets – including any and all criminal penalties. 

How Can a Spouse Get Access to Hidden Cash?

Each spouse has a duty to disclose all assets, and this includes safety deposit boxes. If they fail to disclose these assets and they are later revealed, the spouse will face significant penalties. But what happens if they successfully hide this money? Short of installing a spy camera in front of the bedroom safe, there is no real way to get access to cash that is successfully stowed away. It will simply be invisible during the process of asset distribution during a divorce.