The search for hidden assets is not uncommon in divorce cases. In fact, it comes up more frequently than infidelity, and it can have a serious impact on the divorce settlement. According to research by National Endowment for Financial Education, secretive hidden funds are seen in two out of three marriages. The research showed that 31 percent of couples sharing financial accounts with a spouse or significant other had been financially deceptive toward their partner. Of these couples, 58 percent had hidden cash.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers notes that nine out of 10 lawyers report that they have seen their clients using smartphone spying to uncover financial infidelity. Spouses look for text messages and messages on social media that offer a peek into a hidden financial life.

Financial infidelity can come in various forms. From hidden cash and draining bank accounts to retitling property as well as understating income or overstating expenses. It’s born out of a desire to keep one partner from their legal share in a settlement or to decrease the amount of support needed to be paid. Hiding assets within a marriage is destructive. During a divorce, it’s illegal.

The amount of assets in a marriage determines the divorce settlement, alimony and child support. If an ex takes assets or hides them before the court can account for them, then the other spouse’s share is lowered. Sometimes these assets can be found and recovered and the court will order repayment. Other times, if the cash is spent, it may never be recovered.

The good news is in nearly almost all cases there will be a paper trail to uncover. The challenge is uncovering it. There are many steps a spouse can take during the divorce to ensure that hidden assets come to light and that the alleged theft stop.

Those going trough a divorce can freeze accounts to stop the outward flow of money, but this can curtail the level of support received for a period of time. In the long-run, it’s the best way to protect assets during this time. Those going through a divorce should also ensure that they hire the right divorce attorney, one experienced with hidden assets. They will also sometimes work with a forensic accountant who can use scientific and investigator tools to uncover any financial issues and red flags that might come up.

They can also hire a private investigator who can set up surveillance to see what the ex is really doing and where they are going. In the course of asset investigations, private investigators have found out about other vehicles, boats, properties and even entire side businesses that the other partner knew nothing about but were entitled to have included among the assets divided.

In the end, it really is about financial protection during the divorce and after, which is critical especially if children and support payments are a factor.