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California woman concerned about husband hiding assets in divorce

A 61-year-old woman writing to a financial advice columnist explained that her husband expected to get their house and half of her 401(k) retirement funds. They had been married for 25 years when she asked him for a divorce. Although she sent her financial records to his attorney, he had not reciprocated with his records. She wanted to know if he could legally get their home and half of her retirement because it was her understanding that the state required divorces to split assets equally.

The columnist confirmed her expectation that the law would grant her 50 percent of assets. Half of her retirement account might go to her former partner, but the value of the home would have to be split. In response to her concern about her husband concealing financial information, the columnist suggested that she get the names of financial institutions from new or old mail. She would not be allowed to open mail with his name on it, but the sender's information could be helpful in court. Family court judges typically dislike parties that try to hide assets.

The divorce could potentially influence Social Security benefits, especially if they were married for 10 years or more. At retirement age, a person can sometimes claim spousal Social Security benefits from the earnings of a former spouse.

Because of the stress of divorce, the columnist suggested that the woman consult a financial planner or counselor. Outside advice could help her focus on long-term results. A divorce attorney may also be of aid to a person who needs to end a marriage. Along with preparing court papers, an attorney might challenge attempts by a former partner to hide money or pressure the person into accepting an unequal division of assets.

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