Once the divorce process starts many individuals will do whatever they can to hold on to what they feel, is their own money. Some people even have secret accounts and other financial activities during the entire length of the marriage. Exposing these assets is the only way to make sure you get a fair divorce settlement.
Being aware of the methods and resources used by attorneys and financial professionals may help you avoid being victimized by a spouse or ex spouse who is hiding assets. Below are some ways assets might be hidden.
- Tax returns are one of the best places to start.
Most people are honest on their income tax out of fear of penalties, fines and even prison. Even a spouse who is trying to hide income from you is going to think twice about hiding it from the IRS. Go back at least 5 years to look for any inconsistencies in income, the presence of trusts, partnerships or real estate holdings.
- Checking account statements and cancelled checks can be revealing.
A cancelled check for a purchase you never knew about, such as an investment property, can make a substantial difference in total assets to be divided. Checking account statements and cancelled checks from accounts you didn’t know about are even more revealing. Make sure to request copies of ALL financial accounts during the discovery phase of your divorce.
- Savings accounts may reveal unusual deposits or withdrawals.
Deposits and withdrawals could point to a hidden asset such as a dividend producing investment. If you notice any unusual, withdrawals or deposits take notice. Also, be sure to make copies of all financial account statements before you separate.
- The courthouse is an invaluable resource when checking for hidden assets.
If they have borrowed money from a bank or mortgage company, their loan application will be on file at the courthouse. A person fills out a loan application in anticipation of obtaining money from a bank. On that application will be a list of each asset the person owns and an estimation of it’s value.
Since it is a federal crime to lie on such applications 9 times out of 10 you will be able to get an honest idea of the persons trued assets and their value.
- Don’t forget the county tax assessor’s office.
If money has been taken from, savings accounts and used for buying real estate property, the tax assessor will have all pertinent information on record. Any land or homes they own will be listed with an address and the assessed taxable value of the property.
- Your spouse’s boss may help hide assets.
A boss may be persuaded to wait to give an earned bonus until after the divorce is final. This can also happen with stock options, retirement benefits or pay raises. These monies would not be considered during the settlement negotiations which means an unequotable distribution of assets.
- Help may come from a friend or third party.
It wouldn’t be unusual for a friend to help your spouse hide assets. This can be done by conjuring up a phony debt to the friend with the understanding that, once the divorce is final the money will be returned. Also, if there is another man/woman in the picture assets may have been used to pay for gifts, vacations, rents and any of a dozen things one can do for a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”
Don't make the assumption that your attorney will automatically look for hidden assets. You have to take a pro - active role and insists there be an asset search.
Don't make the mistake of taking your spouse's word when it comes to assets. Guilt and emotional pain can cause a certain level of denial. When it comes to getting a fair settlement don't let denial get in the way.