The provenance of cryptocurrency is having an effect across businesses, processes and the world as we know it. The legal world is no exception. When Dealing with cryptocurrency assets, the issue of concealment is steadily increasing due to the less tangible nature of cryptocurrencies compared to normal currencies. In this article, we look at how cryptocurrencies can enable greater concealment of assets during a divorce and what you should know.
What are cryptocurrencies?
Commonly referred to as ‘crypto’, cryptocurrencies are a currency described as virtual or digital that uses cryptography to secure transactions on a system called the blockchain (a digital ledger). The key difference with conventional currencies is that the system they operate on is ‘decentralised’ with no central authority like there is with existing currencies. Although cryptocurrencies are becoming more commonplace, there is often some uncertainty as to how they work from those who aren’t trading with them or know someone who is or doesn’t operate in the finance sector.
Why use crypto to conceal assets?
Today, hiding funds in offshore bank accounts is not the only route available for those wanting to hide assets during a divorce. Cryptocurrencies are open to even the smallest of investors with little initial capital required to start. Despite the volatile and unregulated nature of crypto, some people going through a divorce have been willing to take the inherent risks associated with cryptocurrencies, due to the minimal traceability is allows for.
Identifying asset concealment during divorce
It can be challenging to prove someone is involved in crypto trading, so if you believe your ex-spouse is, or could have been, you will need to ask for this to be declared during divorce proceedings.
Some ways digital currency usage can be confirmed, include:
- Large transactions on a bank account can show details of digital wallets or coins in some cases, but you will need to request official access to bank accounts to verify this.
- In addition, digital currencies may have been used to acquire property or objects which may be linked to a postal address.
- Also, tax returns from HMRC could offer a lead on any crypto holdings.
- In some cases, and if there is no other evidence, relevant texts or digital communications may be shown to the court if they are available.
If you think your spouse could be breaking the rules by hiding financial assets, then don’t break the rules yourself when you are trying to evidence this. For example, never access someone’s email, phone, or bank account, even if you know the password.
A cautionary tale can be demonstrated by the case of Arbili Vs Arbili where a divorcing couple were locked in a dispute regarding asset division. During the process, one party had# accessed information on the other via hacking into emails. Ultimately, this information was dismissed by the judge because of the means by which it was acquired.
As we see vehicle giants like Tesla making a $1.5 billion investment in Bitcoin, and upcoming crypto capitals like New York and Miami attracting more crypto commerce, the rising use of cryptocurrencies for the wider population is arguably inevitable.
As such, for divorcing couples, it is worth considering if your ex-spouse would have the desire or means to conceal assets through cryptocurrencies. When looking into this, rather than taking matters into your own hands, you can explain to your ex-spouse that failure to disclose assets can lead to serious consequences, including penalties. Failing this, it’s recommended you speak to a qualified divorce lawyer who will advise you on how to proceed.