Exposing The Risks: Penalty For Hiding Assets In Divorce South Africa


Going through a divorce is already emotionally challenging, but when suspicions arise about hidden assets, it adds another layer of complexity. Amidst the emotional turmoil, being informed about the penalties for concealing assets during divorce proceedings in South Africa becomes paramount. So what is the penalty for hiding assets in divorce South Africa?

Penalty for hiding assets in divorce South Africa: severe financial repercussions, potential criminal charges, and loss of credibility before the court are not only detrimental to the outcome of the divorce, but they can also have long-lasting implications for your financial and legal standing.

Imagine discovering your spouse has hidden assets during divorce proceedings. It’s a disheartening reality for many. However, knowing why spouses might resort to such tactics and how to navigate this situation is empowering. To help you navigate this uncertain landscape, we will look at the penalty for hiding assets in divorce in South Africa and the common ways someone might try to conceal assets.


What Is The Penalty For Hiding Assets In Divorce South Africa?

The penalty for hiding assets in divorce proceedings in South Africa can be severe. Firstly, the court may impose financial penalties, ordering the non-disclosing spouse to compensate the other party for the value of the hidden assets.

The non-disclosing spouse could also face criminal charges for perjury or contempt of court, resulting in fines or even imprisonment. Furthermore, hiding assets can significantly damage the non-disclosing spouse’s credibility before the court, potentially leading to unfavourable rulings regarding asset division and support arrangements.

The penalties for hiding assets in divorce in South Africa can have long-lasting financial and legal consequences.


Why Might A Spouse Hide Assets During Divorce Proceedings?

Divorce proceedings have the ability to bring out the worst in people, leading some spouses to resort to hiding assets. Financial motives often drive this behaviour, as individuals may seek to reduce their obligations or secure a more favourable settlement. Additionally, resentment or a desire for revenge can fuel attempts to conceal assets from their partner.


Common Ways To Conceal Assets During A Divorce

In the often tumultuous landscape of divorce proceedings, individuals face the daunting task of navigating asset division. Some employ predictable tactics, while others resort to more elaborate schemes, all to conceal assets and gain the upper hand in the dissolution of marriage.

Amidst the emotional upheaval of divorce, understanding these strategies becomes imperative for protecting one’s rights and securing a fair outcome. From manipulating financial records to enlisting co-conspirators, individuals employ various tactics, each aimed at obscuring assets and complicating the division process. Let’s delve into some of the most common and oldest tricks in the book employed by individuals facing divorce.



  • Elimination of Financial Records: Where a spouse deliberately eliminates financial accounting programs or claims that crucial financial records on a crashed computer’s hard drive cannot be recovered.
  • Covert Schemes: Here, a spouse might befriend a financial advisor and arrange to be “out of town on business” to set up remote schemes without arousing suspicion.



  • False Asset Decline: Reporting an extraordinary decline in the value of marital or business assets and investments to dissuade suspicion.
  • Asset Transfers and Sales: Transferring assets to family or friends, selling assets to them, posing as independent buyers, and planning to reverse these transactions after the divorce.



  • Control of Bank Accounts: Preserving or obtaining total control of bank accounts, banking information, and passwords.
  • Multiple Bank Accounts: Opening several personal or business bank accounts to shift funds discreetly.



  • Expense Manipulation: Failing to reimburse legitimate business expenses, overpaying creditors, or pre-paying suppliers to manipulate the business’s financial position.
  • Payroll Manipulation: Adding family or friends to the payroll or paying them for fictitious “consulting services” to channel funds back to oneself.



  • Abnormal Purchases: Here, a spouse might make abnormally expensive purchases like recreational toys or cars, intending to sell them later.
  • Art or Collectors’ Items: Investing in art or collectors’ items with the intention to sell them again post-divorce for a profit.


While diverse and sometimes elaborate, these tactics aim to conceal assets and manipulate financial records to gain an unfair advantage in divorce proceedings. Individuals navigating divorce need to be aware of these strategies and work with experienced professionals to uncover any attempts at asset concealment.


5 Ways You Can Protect Your Interests During a Divorce

Before diving into the complexities of divorce proceedings, arm yourself with these proactive measures, including legal steps and financial planning strategies, to safeguard your interests and well-being.

  1. Gather Comprehensive Financial Documentation: Collecting thorough documentation of your joint and individual assets is essential. This step includes collecting bank statements, property deeds, investment portfolios, and business records.
  2. Seek Professional Guidance: Consulting with experienced divorce attorneys and financial advisors can provide invaluable support. They can help you navigate legal complexities, uncover hidden assets, and strategize for a fair settlement.
  3. Utilize Legal Tools: South African law provides mechanisms like court orders for disclosure and forensic investigations to uncover hidden assets. Utilize these legal tools to ensure transparency and fairness in the divorce process.
  4. Stay Informed and Vigilant: Remain vigilant for suspicious financial activities or discrepancies in your spouse’s behaviour. Stay informed about your obligations and rights under South African divorce law to protect your interests effectively.
  5. Prioritize Self-Care: Divorce can be emotionally draining. Ensure your emotional and mental well-being by seeking support from friends, family, or therapists. Prioritize self-care to navigate this challenging period with resilience and strength.


The penalty for hiding assets in divorce South Africa can be significant with far-reaching consequences. By understanding the penalties, motivations, and common tactics associated with hiding assets, individuals can take proactive steps to safeguard their interests and achieve a fair outcome. Remember, seeking professional guidance and staying informed is essential to navigate the complexities of divorce confidently.

At Burnett Attorneys & Notaries, we understand the risks associated with all marital regimes in South Africa, ensuring tailored support for your divorce proceedings. Our team is committed to assisting you to navigate this challenging process. Our expertise ensures that each case receives the unique attention it deserves, striving for a fair and straightforward resolution. Let us guide you through this journey, ensuring your rights are protected, and your interests are prioritized at every step. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards a more straightforward divorce process.