Apr 14, 2018 | Property Division

If you are going through an Illinois divorce and strongly suspect that your spouse is hiding assets from you so as to skew your property settlement, here is a question for you. Have you heard about Bitcoin? If your answer is no, as in all likelihood it is, you should find out more about this most popular of the cryptocurrencies.

If that is another word with which you are unfamiliar, a cryptocurrency acts like real money in that you can buy things with it, but it is not real in the sense that you can see it or touch it. Instead, it is virtual money that exists on the internet and in the cloud. Bitcoin is the oldest (2009) and most popular of the cryptocurrencies.

Where you buy it

You buy Bitcoins online from one of the numerous Bitcoin exchanges, many of which are located overseas. All you need is an email account, real or pseudonymous, to sign up for a Bitcoin account. Theoretically, all U.S. Bitcoin accounts require that you link to a bank account or a debit or credit card, but most foreign accounts do not require even that. In addition, many Bitcoin exchanges allow you to buy Bitcoins for cash that you can withdraw from one of the numerous Bitcoin ATMs located throughout the country.

Where you store it

Once you own Bitcoins, you need a place to store them. You do this by means of one or more “wallets;” i.e., electronic files located on your computer, thumb drive, external hard drive and/or smartphone. Your wallet(s) can even reside in the cloud. Wherever you keep your wallets, the Bitcoin accounts they represent can be in the U.S. or in a variety of foreign countries. Many asset-hiding spouses have several wallets among which they transfer their Bitcoins at regular intervals to make them more difficult to trace, assuming someone finds them in the first place.

Bitcoin value

Cryptocurrencies are more like stocks than traditional currencies in many ways. Their value fluctuates, sometimes wildly and often from hour to hour. The current value of one Bitcoin is $7,876.00 USD. Obviously it does not take very many of them to make a small fortune.

Given Bitcoin’s virtual status and therefore ease of concealment, it is one of the best ways to hide assets during a divorce or at any other time. If you think that your spouse might be doing this, it may take a forensic accountant to find, document and trace how many Bitcoins your spouse has, how much they are worth and where they are located.